Assistive technology helps students with disabilities learn more effectively, in turn helping them be more successful in and out of the classroom. According to the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATiA), “Assistive Technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities.”

When it comes to assistive technology, there are a lot of different options for students across a wide range of technologies. On the low-technology end of AT, students can use graphic organizers or highlighters, and on the high-technology end, they can use tablets or communication devices, like a GoTalk device or the Proloquo2Go app.

There are different types of AT for a wide range of needs, too, including but not limited to:

  • Hearing and listening
  • Life skills and daily living
  • Math
  • Memory
  • Organization
  • Reading
  • Speaking and communicating
  • Spelling and writing
  • Vision

But how do you, as the teacher, plan for all of this? Which AT should you use, and how do you use it and how often?

Which Assistive Technology Should My Student Be Using?

This decision comes from the child’s individualized education program (IEP) team. For many of the higher-technology AT options, an AT consult and evaluation is needed. Approval from the team – more specifically, the child’s parents – comes first, then the evaluation, and then probably a trial and error period where you will try out different AT options to see what works best with your student.

With experience comes learning about new and different types of AT devices. Different disabilities require different AT, so remember not to get frustrated throughout the process of finding the right AT device for your student or child.

While it is a process, it also means you aren’t going at it alone. You have the entire team rooting for the child’s success, so make sure you take lots of data on what is working and what isn’t to find the best AT fit.

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If you're interested in developing your career in special education, the University of West Alabama has several affordable, online special education programs.

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AT like calculators, highlighters and graphic organizers are often used as accommodations in the student’s IEP.

Also, when it comes to who pays for the AT in a school, as the teacher, don’t worry. School systems are required to pay for special education learning materials specified in a child’s IEP. If the district is denying paying for an AT device or consult, I recommend telling the parents to research Wright’s Law and learn more about their child’s legal rights.

How Do You Use Assistive Technology?

A great thing about having an AT consult is the person who performs the evaluation will be available to help you learn how to use the AT technology.

If a communication device is recommended, the school or district speech pathologist may step in and help. If the AT is compensating for a fine motor deficit, like an adapted eating utensil, or gross motor deficit, like a walker, the school or district occupational or physical therapist may step in and help.

Again, you aren’t in this alone. The team is there to make sure the child is successful and to help you help the child succeed.

How Often Do You Use Assistive Technology?

This really depends on what the child’s need is.

If the AT device is to assist in eating independently, then you will use the device whenever the child is eating. You will probably also add in some instructional time to each day to teach the student how to use it and fade these instructional sessions as they begin to use the device independently.

If the AT device is a communication device, you will use it all day, every day. And the parents need to be utilizing the device at home and in the community, too. If parents need assistance with learning a new AT device, many districts do offer in-home training.

If the AT is more of a low-tech option, you will give the child the option to use the device as needed.

Become More Knowledgeable in Assistive Technology

If you’re interested in developing your career in special education, the University of West Alabama has several affordable, online special education programs. Because these courses are 100% online, they fit into your current schedule, which also makes furthering your education super convenient. You can learn at home, on the go or during your lunch break at school! And the Ed.S. and M.Ed. degrees typically take one year to complete. Learn more about UWA’s programs here:

  • Online B.S. Special Education: Collaborative Teacher, K-6/6-12, with certification
  • Online Ed.S. Special Education: Collaborative Teacher, K-6 or 6-12
  • Online M.Ed. Special Education: Collaborative Teacher, K-6 or 6-12

UWA Online also offers a scholarship for teachers as well.

This  blog post was written by guest contributor Stephanie DeLussey of Mrs. D’s Corner. Stephanie is a special education teacher in Atlanta, Georgia. You can follow her on her blog or on Instagram @mrsdscorner.