“A plethora of assistive technology options exist, yet selection must be based on student needs, not availability of technology.” pg 224. Assistive Technology in the Classroom: Enhancing the School Experiences of Students  with Disabilities

  I am consistently impressed with the tone of this textbook, and this quote from chapter 9 is an excellent example of how the authors continuously invite the reader to focus on the needs of the student as the driving force in choosing and using assistive technology.  

I especially appreciated the warning against falling prey to the one-size-fits-all assumption that an assistive technology that is beneficial for one student will therefore be equally beneficial to another student. There is indeed a plethora of assistive technology tools available to choose from, and while it can seem daunting to try to understand the variety of options out there, it is a mistake to assume that one or two of them will form a sort of magic bullet that will be equally useful for all students in all situations.

Often two students will “look” the same, especially on paper, while they are in fact functionally and cognitively very different. We see this in the special education community where some witty person has turned the phrase “if you‘ve seen one ______, you’ve seen them all,” into “if you’ve seen one person with Autism, you’ve seen ONE person with Autism.” From my experience, this second phrase is true whether you replace the label “Autism” with the label “ADHD”, or with any of the diagnostic terms for developmental / learning disabilities. In fact, I imagine that you could easily replace any of those somewhat murky diagnostic labels of cognitive disabilities with any of the equally straightforward labels describing the range of physical disabilities, and the second phrase would still be true. For example, “if you’ve seen one deaf person, you’ve seen ONE deaf person.” This is because, although labels are a helpful way to start understanding the specific limitations and challenges of any disability, they are still only labels and are as such not particularly descriptive of the actual person who has the disability.

For this reason, best practices in “assistive technology decision making and assessment” recommend a three prong team approach which focuses first and fore-most on the individual student’s needs and abilities, including identify the specific tasks to be completed within a specific environment. Additionally, a trial use of assistive technology tools, with identification and training of appropriate pre-requisite skills whether they be operation, functional, or strategic is suggested.  Finally, ongoing support and assessment of the success of the tools to actually meet the student’s needs is the third element in the successful implementation of an assistive technology program.


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