Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is considered assistive technology?
    How do I write assistive technology into the IEP?
    How do I write assistive technology into the IFSP?
    What does AT consideration really look like?
    Should AT consideration be included in an evaluation or re-evaluation?
    What is the difference between AT consideration and an AT evaluation?
    What happens during an AT Trial?
    Why do we use the SETT process? 
    What if a student just qualified and hasn’t had an opportunity to use or try AT yet?  
    What is the difference between AT, accommodations, and modifications?
    What happens after AT consideration, trials, etc?
    How do I get AT equipment?

    What is considered assistive technology?

    According to the IDEA, an assistive technology device is “any item, piece of equipment, or product system whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities”. This means that a wide range of supports are considered AT.

    Some of the most common forms of AT used in classroom are:

    • E-books and Audiobooks
    • Dictation/speech to text
    • Laptops or tablets
    • Visual supports (visual schedules, picture cues, etc.)
    • Pencil grips
      (check out the Resources to the right for links to some common AT tools)

    How do I write assistive technology into the IEP?

    • Include all AT that is essential to the student’s learning experience. For example, if all of your students have access to iPads but one student is using that iPad in a way that is essential to accessing their education, include it in their IEP. If you have a SMART Board and a student enjoys using it but doesn’t need it to access their education, do not include it in their plan.
    • Use features of products, not specific product names. For example, “access to voice dictation” instead of “access to Dragon Dictation”. The exception to this rule is if a specific product has features not found in other products that are uniquely necessary to the student’s individual needs.
    • Use statement from flowchart in AT section, document full list of AT is accommodations section

    How do I write assistive technology into the IFSP?

    • Follow the first two guidelines listed above for including AT in the IEP
    • If AT is already in place and working well, document in “What is already happening”
    • If new AT is being tried or put in place, document in “What will happen”

    What does AT consideration really look like?

    For most students, AT Consideration consists of a conversation with the IEP team to discuss the student’s specific needs. Often, decisions regarding AT can be made based on that conversation. For some students, more information will be needed to make an informed decision about AT. More information will commonly be collected through AT trials, or, less commonly, through an AT evaluation. Use the Guiding Questions for AT Consideration to facilitate your conversation, use the AT Consideration Flowchart to determine the outcomes of consideration.

    Should AT consideration be included in an evaluation or re-evaluation?

    Probably not. The purpose of an evaluation is to determine a student’s needs. However, students do not have needs in AT, they have needs that are met through the use of AT. In most cases, the conversation of AT consideration fits best at the evaluation results and/or IEP meeting. The AT Consideration Flowchart, Guiding Questions, and Quick Consideration Guide are tools that may help guide your AT conversation. This is also a good time to involve the AT Strategist for additional ideas and input.


    What is the difference between AT consideration and an AT evaluation?

    AT consideration is a conversation with the IEP team, and sometimes involves AT trials and data collection. An AT evaluation is a more formal determination of student AT needs. An AT evaluation is typically initiated by a parent request, or when AT trials are inconclusive. It can be completed with the help of the AT Strategist.

    What happens during an AT Trial?

    An AT trial is often conducted after an IEP team narrows down to a few AT options, but can’t decide which piece of technology will best meet the student’s needs. For example, would it be better for a student to use a low tech picture communication system, an iPad with a communication app, or a dedicated communication device? During an AT trial, a student will try out different types of AT, usually for 3-6 weeks, in their customary environment.

    Why do we use the SETT process?

    The SETT (student, environment, tasks and tools) process is important because it puts the emphasis of AT consideration on individual student needs, and saves “tools” for the end of the conversation. With all of the exciting new technology, it is easy to want to find a student who “needs” a new piece of technology. AT best practices show us that the best AT decisions are made when we first consider the needs of the student in their customary environment, and then match tools to those needs. The SETT process facilitates the best practices for AT consideration.

    What if a student just qualified and hasn’t had an opportunity to use or try AT yet?

    • If the student has already been attending school, you can still use the SETT framework to guide your AT consideration.
    • If the student has not been attending school, parents will be an essential part of your AT discussion, as they will be able to guide what needs they see from their child.
    • Remember, AT must be discussed yearly, but can be discussed at any time. For newly qualified students, you may need to update the AT use in their IEP/IFSP once they have been in service and you better understand their needs.

    What is the difference between AT, accommodations, and modifications?

    • Assistive technology, the legal definition of which is included in question one, is any DEVICE (i.e. dictation software, fidgets, visual supports, etc) you use to support a student’s needs and/or help them better access their educational experiences.
    • Accommodations change how a student learns materials (i.e. extra time, preferential seating).
    • Modifications change what the student is expected to learn or complete (i.e. shortened assignments, different book choices).

    What happens after AT consideration, trials, etc?

    • Document the outcome in the IEP/IFSP
    • Start using the AT! Remember that staff and student training is essential to effective AT use. Contact the AT Specialist if you need support with AT training.

    How do I get AT equipment?

    The AT Device Request Form is available here:

    https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeDKaIPstpCVMqnlNMqAKsPezTRIfPKAsR4qmTvYDVbnSZU1Q/viewform?usp=sf_link