Updated: Jun 6, 2022
Assistive technology (AT) is an important consideration for any child with a disability.
In addition to the consideration needed at Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings, assistive technology supports are a valuable resource when we are considering the provision of equitable access to grade level content.
For classroom teachers and others that support children with disabilities, it is vital to understanding what is available as an assistive technology tool. The bigger our tool box of resources, the greater impact we can have on equity of instruction.
What is assistive technology?
Assistive technology is a consideration for expressive language as well as for academic support. For the purpose of this article, we are focused on AT classroom tools; however, here is general information on AT for communication.
AT as a classroom tool is available to children with disabilities to build independence and to assist them in doing something they couldn't otherwise do.
There are 3 primary types of AT that may be considered as a classroom tool.
No tech: supports that only require the user's body with no need for batteries or electronics. These are usually readily available in the classroom.
Low tech: might be a simple electronic or a non-electronic object. These are usually readily available in the classroom.
High tech: are usually computers, tablets, or some other type of electronic device or accessory. These might not be readily available in the classroom.
When choosing the right AT support for a child, teachers must know the child's strengths and needs, consider the goals and objectives on the IEP, and get input from other service providers who work with the child. When the right supports are combined with good teaching, equity is possible!
AT is generally available for Reading, Writing and Typing, Spelling, Mathematics, and Learning and Focus. The list of available options for AT can be extensive; here is an example of no-tech, low-tech, and high-tech in each category.
no-tech: chapter outlines
low-tech: color transparency strips as reading rulers
high-tech: recorded books for children with print disabilities (Learning Ally, Bookshare)
Handwriting and Typing
no-tech: reduce far point or near copy work
low-tech: pencil grips or adaptive pencil holders
high-tech: adjustments to screen background, tint, or contrast, Microsoft learning tools
no-tech: explicit instruction in spelling patterns
low-tech: personal word walls or spelling dictionaries
high-tech: spell check tools on computer
no-tech: minimize number of equations on a page
low-tech: graph paper to help with number alignment
high-tech: talking calculator
Learning and Focus
no-tech: reminders to finish assignments by due date
low-tech: color-coded subject folders, sticky notes, highlighting tape
high-tech: work and assignments sent home via a drive, electronic organizers or checklists
Regardless of the type of AT classroom tools needed for a child, the most important idea to remember is the opportunity for equitable access to learning.
For additional information on AT classroom tools for engagement, independence, and equity, go to: www.inclusiveology.com