According to the Individuals with Disabilities Act
(IDEA), Assistive Technology (AT) is defined as
any item, piece of equipment, or product system
(whether acquired off the shelf, modified, or
customized) that is used to increase, maintain, or
improve the functional capabilities of a child with
Assistive technology devices and services were first
defined in federal law in the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-476)
-is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities
throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and
public agencies provide early intervention, special
education and related services to more than 6.5 million
eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with
Assistive Technology continued
The purpose of assistive technology is to bypass,
work around, or compensate for specific deficits,
rather than fixing them in order to help them
reach their full potential and live satisfying,
AT can be categorized as either of the following:
Low Tech: any assistive device that is not electronic.
Mid-Tech: electronic but do not include highly sophisticated
High Tech : devices utilize complex, multifunction technology
• pencil grip
• adapted books
• slant board
• highlighters, tape
• color coding
• picture communication
• sign language
• peer support
• word processor
• text to speech
• spell checker
• digital recorders
• adapted keyboard
• adapted mouse
• adapted toys
• OCR software
• magnification software
• speech output devices
• switch, joystick access
• scanning access
• voice recognition
Why is AT Important?
By enabling people to perform tasks that they were
formerly unable to accomplish, or had great
difficulty accomplishing, the use of AT can:
• improve quality of life
• increase productivity
• enhance performance
• increase self esteem
Why is AT Important? continued
Studies have shown that assistive technology can
support the developing child by significantly
improving the educational, vocational, and social
performance of students with special needs.
However, their families and the professionals who
provide services to them may not be aware of these
tools or know how to use them.
The term “special needs" is broad and includes health,
mental health, developmental, and other kinds of
conditions and diagnoses. Some examples include: autism,
mental retardation, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD), cerebral palsy, tics, learning disabilities, visual,
speech or language impairments.
Also includes those children who are “at-risk” for
disabilities such as those who have a developmental delay.
The designation is useful for receiving needed services,
setting appropriate goals, and gaining understanding for a
child and their family.
Special Needs can encompass the following:
Mental Health Issues
Individual Education Program
An Individual Education Program (I.E.P) is
typically in place to serve students who have a
The IEP is a legal document that is initiated by the
school that describes the goals sets for a child
during the school year, as well as any special
support needed to help achieve them.
Choosing Assistive Technology
When considering which assistive technology
devices/services, several factors must be
Physical needs of the student
Task(s) to be accomplished by the student
The device itself
Identifying AT Solutions
Step 1: Collect child and family information. Begin
the discussion about the child’s strengths, abilities,
preferences and needs. What strategies have been
found to work best?
Step 2: Identify activities for participation. Discuss
the various activities within the environments that
a child encounters throughout the day. What is
preventing him/her from participating more?
Step 3: What can be observed that indicates the
intervention is successful? What is his/her current
level of participation and what observable
behaviors will reflect an increase in independent
interactions? What changes (e.g., number of
initiations, expression attempts, responses,
reactions, etc.) will you look for?
Step 4: Brainstorm AT solutions. Do the child’s
needs include supports for movement,
communication and/or use of materials? Start
with what is available in the environment (what
other children use) and consider adaptations to
those materials. A range of options that address
specific support areas should be considered.
Step 5: Try it out. Determine when the AT
intervention will begin and create an observation
plan to record how the child participates with the
Step 6: Identify what worked. Reflect on your plan
and discuss did and didn’t work. Make
modifications as needed and try again.
There are many types of learning difficulties
students may encounter such as: listening, math,
organization and memory, reading, and writing as
a result of their disability/special need. However,
there are several AT resources that can help.
Assistive listening devices (ALDs) help amplify the
sounds and can be used with a hearing aid or cochlear
Easy Listener and Hearing Helper- personal FM
systems that uses radio signals to transmit a speaker's
voice directly to the user's ear.
Text to Speech: Natural Reader is a free text to speech
MathPad and MathPad Plus- Allows students to
use the computer to work math problems
Math Talk -- user can voice own work and print work
MaxAid and AbleData- talking calculator has the
ability to read aloud each number, symbol, or
operation key a user presses and also vocalizes the
answer to the problem.
EcoSmart Pen – paper-based computer pen that
records and links audio to what a person writes
using the pen and special paper.
Kidspiration and Draftbuilder - Graphic organizers
and outlining programs help users who have
trouble organizing and outlining information as
they begin a writing project.
Typeit4Me- word prediction software
WordQ - word prediction software (fee associated)
AlphaSmart and QuickPad – portable word
processor that allows the user to edit and correct
written work more efficiently than by hand
Simply Speaking – speech recognition that allows
user to dictate in microphone which is translated
Reading Assistant - students read aloud, and this
software corrects their errors. It provides immediate
feedback on pronunciation, and fluency.
Bookshare and Learning Ally - Recorded books which
allow users to listen to text and in a variety of formats
Intel Reader – optical character recognition that allows
a user to scan printed material into a computer or
Georgia Project for Assistive Technology
Association of Assistive Technology Act