Assistive Technology and Educational Transition
AT should be considered a significant aspect of planning for transition (i.e., moving from one place or service to another: from B-3 to preschool; from preschool to elementary school; from elementary school to middle school; from middle school to high school; and from high school to postsecondary activities).
When students with disabilities transition from one service to another, the AT they use in one service should be provided in the next. When the team develops a plan for transition, it should include AT devices and services and identify the training needs and responsibilities of the stakeholders (student, peers, educators, and family members). The quality indicators for AT transition address practices that can help educators transition devices and services smoothly from one setting to another ( appendix 1, appendix 2, appendix 3).
To successfully transition with their existing AT and/or prepare for the devices and services that students may need in new settings, AT-specific information should be included in the statement of transition services. This information can include:
- a description of the student’s current technology use;
- a statement of the AT requirements in the receiving environment (i.e., the school/setting he or she will be moving to);
- information concerning the transfer of equipment, including user manuals and support documents;
- identification of key personnel involved in training, accessing funding options, and providing ongoing support;
- steps for using and maintaining the AT;
- an outline of the roles and training needs of team members;
- follow-up activities including assessment and evaluation; and
- an individualized timeline for implementation.
Adapted from the QIAT Consortium’s Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology Services and the Familiy Center on Technology and Disability .
AT and Postsecondary Transition
AT is an important component in the postsecondary transition planning process. Students may need AT for completing transition assessments, accomplishing functional tasks in community and employment settings, independent living skills, and accessing and participating in training and higher education settings. In addition, it is legally required that AT be part of the transition plan if it is part of the IEP and needed by the student.
AT elements are critical components that should be considered to bridge the next phases that the student may encounter to increase the opportunities for success while ensuring that transition needs are aligned with current and future skill sets. Students may need AT for completing transition assessments, filling out applications, accomplishing functional tasks in community and employment settings, completing essential job functions, and accessing and participating in training and higher education settings.
When AT services and devices are part of a postsecondary transition plan, information should be included about specific equipment, training, funding regarding transfer or acquisition of AT, and manuals and support documents. It is critical that key agencies be identified that may need to conduct further assessments or assist in purchasing equipment that the individual has had success with or can be trained in—ensuring that the supports remain seamless and address both generic and specific needs. This is especially important in cases in which the student is using school-purchased devices that will need to be returned upon graduation, unless arrangements are made to buy the device from the school. It can be noted that AT assessment can be considered a transition assessment.
Even if a student has been using AT within the school setting, the tools that he or she will need upon graduation will not necessarily be the same. Therefore, it is important to determine what the specific needs are based on the tasks and settings in which the student will be working, training, learning, and/or living. The student should be given the opportunity to try the technologies within settings in which they will be used and become technologically literate with current practices. Using technologies within a potential job setting will help to determine if they are an appropriate match and what changes, if any, may need to be addressed to have a successful outcome.
AT and Self-Determination
Self-determination is defined as the “ability to identify and achieve goals based on a foundation of knowing and valuing oneself” (Field and Hoffman, 1994). AT is one avenue for individuals with disabilities to gain greater control of their lives through making choices and increasing independence. Some of the elements of self-determination (Wehmeyer and Field, 2007) are:
- positive perceptions of control, efficacy and outcome expectations;
- choice-making skills;
- decision-making skills;
- problem-solving skills;
- goal setting and attainment skills;
- self-regulation/self-management skills; and
- self-advocacy and leadership skills.
As part of self-advocacy, individuals should learn how to explain the technology they are using and how it helps them accomplish tasks. These skills will assist them in the future to make requests for needed accommodations and to become an informed consumer to avoid exploitation. Some of the characteristics of a self-determined individual are:
- acts autonomously;
- is self-regulated;
- is psychologically empowered; and
- acts in a self-realizing manner (Wehmeyer and Field, 2007).
Teaching correct terms, safety skills around social networking (such as not to give out personal information unless you are confident of the person’s role in their life) and access to legitimate support networks will increase the chances for a successful and healthy transition into the next phases of the individual’s life. As knowledge grows with successful use of the AT, individuals become more confident of his or her own abilities and a greater awareness of identifying and achieving personal goals. There are a number of resources available to assist with incorporating AT into transition planning, including The Assistive Technology Transition Planning Checklist, Assistive Technology Protocol for Transition Planning, Student Information Guide for Self Determination and Assistive Technology Management, Assistive Technology Goal Setting Worksheet, and the Student Portfolio for Successful Transition with Assistive Technology.