How to get Your Child’s School to Provide Assistive Technology
Provided by: MDA Publications and written by Lisa Quintero
State and federal law requires school districts to provide assistive technology (AT) to qualifying students. But parents may have a difficult time convincing their school districts that these services will benefit their child.
Schools are required to provide AT services only if they’re explicitly written into a child’s IEP, with details explaining how these special services will help the child accomplish “functional” and/or “academic” goals.
(An IEP or individualized educational plan is the blueprint for the education of a child with a disability. By law, IEP meetings must be held at least once a year, but parents, teachers or administrators may call for one at any time. Parents are an integral part of the IEP team and must be notified of all meetings and allowed to be present if they choose.)
According to IDEA 2004 (the federal law governing special education), school districts can’t deny special education services because of cost. But the tension between what parents want and what school districts believe they can afford is inherent in every IEP meeting. This level of tension will vary based on the school district, and “the available resources, budget and attitude,” says Al Freedman, a child and family psychologist in West Chester, Pa., whose son, Jack, 12, is in sixth grade and was diagnosed with type 1 spinal muscular atrophy at 6 months.
Despite this tension, success is possible. For example, Jack’s IEP includes multiple pages of special services. In addition to OT, PT, and speech/language therapy services, his IEP calls for: Kurzweil scan and read software; Reach on-screen keyboard; Mathpad computation software; laptop computer (for use at home and school); trackball mouse; video conferencing equipment (for use at home when Jack’s sick); and training for the teacher and aides regarding technology and physical needs.
Connect with other parents about Assistive Technology.
Visit the My Child Without Limits support community and talk to parents, caregivers, and professionals about their experiences.
Looking for more information on Assistive Technology and Individualized Service Plans?
Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA)
Alliance for Technology Access
National Assistive Technology Technical Assistance Partnership (NATTAP)
DisabilityInfo.gov (AT resources)