Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Related Service: Assistive Technology

When people first think of assistive technology they think of the actual devices that a student uses in the classroom - ranging from a laptop computer to a pencil grip. But some devices requires that the student's IEP actually include a direct service in order for them to access those devices.

Under the IDEA assistive technology service means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. See 20 U.S.C. 1401(2); 34 CFR 300.6. As with other services if the student is identified as needing special education and related services they are entitled to an individual evaluation for possible assistive technology devices. See Maynard Sch. Dist., 20 IDELR 394 (SEA AR 1993).

As with other services, it is the IEP team that makes the determination about whether a child requires either AT devices or services in order to receive a FAPE. See 34 CFR 300.324(a)(2)(v); see also Letter to Anonymous, 24 IDELR 854 (OSEP 1996). If the team determines that a student with a disability requires a device or service to receive a FAPE the District is obligated to provide that device or service. OSEP has stated that when a child requires AT the IEP document must include a specific statement of such AT devices or services. See Letter to Anonymous, 18 IDELR 627 (OSEP 1991).

As with other areas of special education a parent can not unilaterally determine the device or service but rather the team makes a determination about what is appropriate. If there is a dispute, however, parents have the ability to present evidence that the preferred device or services is appropriate and the district's proposed device or service is not. Furthermore, while the cost of a device is a relevant in determining what AT devices or services to provide it cannot be the determining factor. See Greenwood County Sch. Dist., 52 IDELR 355 (SEA CA 1992). A school district, however, has no obligation to pay for AT services if there is an alternate funding source, such as private insurance or Medicaid.

Typically an AT service is linked to a particular AT device that an IEP team has determined is appropriate for a student. For example, if an IEP team determines that a student requires an augmentative communication device in order to benefit from his or her education then the district may need to provide direct instruction in that device to the student and/or training to other instructors and service providers on that particular device. On the other hand, if an IEP team determines that a student requires access to a computer in the classroom the student may not require an AT service to access that device.

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