Transcript: Penny Reed, PhD
Listen as Penny Reed discusses the IEP team’s process for considering whether a student needs AT (time: 2:53).
I think that a good IEP team meeting is one where all the members of the team, including the parents and the student, when the student is able to participate, have a voice in making decisions about all aspects of that student’s IEP. First, they look at the present level of educational achievement and functional performance, and that level is well written so that you know exactly what the child is able to do or not do and where the challenges are. The IEP team then determines the goals for the coming year, talks them through, and all are in agreement about those and then says, “Okay, what do we need to provide so that this student can meet those goals? Where are the challenges? What things are we most concerned about?” And for those tasks and activities they look at assistive technology as well as other strategies that might help them. You’ve got to stop and think about the student and exactly what he’s able to do and not able to do. And in the environment, what’s there for him to use and what isn’t? How much support does he have and how noisy is it, and things like that. What are the specific tasks, because you can’t make an AT decision without knowing what the task is.
AT is not available for a specific disability. It’s available to address specific tasks. One child with cerebral palsy will need a completely different set of assistive technology tools than another child with cerebral palsy. And one child with autism will require a completely different set of things than another child with autism. We can’t prescribe AT based on disability identification. We have to look at the task that the student is struggling with. So that they’re very task-focused, they know exactly what the student can do and not do, now that it’s based on what the task the student needs to do and where we’re concerned about barriers that he’s going to not be able to overcome without the assistive technology. You can’t really do a good job of considering the need for assistive technology unless you’re task-focused, and you can’t be task-focused until you know what the goals are. For me, that’s always been a significant piece. Many IEP forms ask you somewhere else in the IEP about AT as if it’s a completely separate thing. So in some states it might come on the second or third page, and you haven’t even developed the goals until two pages later. That’s a problem for a lot of IEP teams, because they’re trying to think about it in isolation and, of course, then they don’t have an answer. We’re all driven by the order of the IEP that was developed by somebody who just thought it fit there nicely. And I used to put a sticky note on that page and come back to it because whether it’s an electronic sticky note or it’s a paper one, whatever form you’re working in, you can’t be driven by that. You’ve got to follow a thought process that makes sense for the participants.