US Department of Education’s “Myths and Facts Surrounding Assistive Technology Devices and Services”

If a student needs a computer, can a school owned computer be used in the lab or classroom?

Yes, a school owned computer can be used if the student has access to the equipment when he or she needs it. If the student does not have the necessary access, then the appropriate equipment should be purchased for the student's use.

Isn't assistive technology just a crutch?
Assistive technology should be used as support for access, learning and performing daily tasks. In general, assistive technology is appropriate when it compensates for disabilities so that the individual can function as normally as possible. If assistive technology is necessary for a student to have access to educational opportunities or to benefit from education, then it is not a "crutch" but a legitimate support. Some skills are too laborious or taxing to accomplish at a rate or with degree of proficiency to allow for participation in the least restrictive environment. With assistive technology, the student can participate more fully and more closely approximate the levels of achievement and interaction of his or her peers. In general, the use of assistive technology enhances function and increases skills and opportunities.

When is assistive technology appropriate?
Assistive technology may be considered appropriate when it does any or all of the following things:

  • Enables students to perform functions that can be achieved by no other means
  • Enables students to approximate normal fluency, rate, or standards--a level of accomplishment which could not be achieved by any other means.
  • Provides access for participation in programs or activities which otherwise would not be available to the individual
  • Increases endurance or ability to persevere and complete tasks that otherwise are too laborious to be attempted on a routine basis
  • Enables students to concentrate on learning tasks, rather than mechanical tasks
  • Provides greater access to information
  • Supports normal social interactions with peers and adults
  • Supports participation in the least restrictive educational environment.

What are "high-tech" and "low-tech" assistive technology devices?
An assistive technology device may be a "high-tech" device (such as a computer or an augmentative communication device), or it may be "low-tech" (such as a pencil grip, a visual schedule, a tape recorder, or a cushion for better positioning). It can also include training for parents, teachers and related service staff.

When a student moves from one school to another, does the device follow the student?
If an assistive device is necessary, such a device must be provided in whatever school the student attends. The same device may not necessarily follow the student from one school to another, but a comparable device would have to be provided in the new school that the student attends.

If a family moves from one school district to another, can a student's assistive technology go along?
Devices bought by the school belong to the school, not the student who uses them. When a family moves from one school district to another, the equipment the student has been using does not move to the new school.

Assistive equipment can go with a student to a new school if the sending school district agrees to sell the device to the family or the new school district.

If the device was purchased by the family, through the family's private health insurance or by Medicaid for this particular student, then the device belongs to the student and can go with the student to a new school district.

What happens to assistive technology devices when students leave the school system at graduation?
If the school district purchased the device, the device is the property of the school. The school could keep the device for use by other students. If the family or another funding source purchased the device, it is the property of the student and the family.

Is a school district responsible for providing "state of the art" equipment for a student?
No. The school district needs to provide only appropriate technology in order to meet the student's needs as described in the IEP. The decision as to what type of assistive technology is appropriate should be based on the assistive technology evaluation recommendations and IEP team decision. There may be "devices" or features of equipment which may be nice for the student to have, but if they are not necessary for FAPE, the school district is not obligated to provide them. If a specific device is necessary to ensure FAPE and no other device can meet the student's needs, then the district must provide the required device, even though it is costly. If a less expensive device would accomplish the same goals, the IEP team is under no obligation to choose a more expensive option.

How can assistive technology be provided from year to year with a degree of continuity?
As part of the annual review of the IEP, a point should be made to devise ways to communicate with next year's teachers about the technology the student uses and how it should be integrated into the curriculum. Teachers who are new to working with the student who uses technology should be provided training if they are unfamiliar with the device and its use. Training for teachers and support staff should be written into the IEP as a related service.

Can an assistive technology device be used by more than one student?
Yes, if the device is the property of the school district and if all of the students using the device have access to the equipment when they need it.

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