The term assistive technology is defined in the federal law that provides the foundation for all special education services - the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004). This law's definition of assistive technology consists of two parts: assistive technology devices and assistive technology services.
Assistive Technology Device
The term assistive technology device means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.
This broad definition includes a wide variety of items that might be considered assistive technology devices. Consideration of devices should include, but not be limited to the following areas of need:
- Study/Organizational Skills
- Activities of Daily Living
- Recreation, Leisure, and Adaptive Play
- Positioning, Seating, and Mobility
- Computer Access
Assistive Technology Service
The term 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. Such term includes -
- the evaluation of the needs of such child including a functional evaluation of the child in the child's customary environments;
- purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by such child;
- selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology devices;
- coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs;
- training or technical assistance for such child, or, where appropriate, the family of such child; and
- training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education and rehabilitation services, employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of such child.
For information about AT laws, visit
- Building the Legacy:IDEA 2004
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA)
- Center for Parent Information & Resources: Assistive Technology Act
- Center on Technology and Disability
Assistive Technology Works: Legislation, Definition and Benefits
Assistive Technology Works: Legislation, Definitions and Benefits is a brief introduction to the laws around assistive technology, otherwise referred to as AT, and how AT benefits students with disabilities. This presentation was developed by the Virginia Department of Education's Assistive Technology Priority Project.
Assistive Technology Works: Legislation, Definition and Benefits (TTAC Online log-in required)
Assistive Technology and the IEP
Consideration and Assessment of Assistive Technology
In November 2008 the Virginia Department of Education released materials for school divisions to use when developing operating guidelines and service delivery models for assistive technology. Included in the document ("Assistive Technology: A Framework for Consideration and Assessment") includes definitions, laws, consideration guidelines, and a process for assistive technology assessment. Sample forms are also provided.
These documents do not replace any federal or state regulations but are designed to assist Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams in planning and implementing assistive technology (AT) services to students with disabilities.
Many model assistive technology programs have also created resources and sample forms to be used during the consideration and assessment process for assistive technology. Acknowledgment is also given to these projects for inspiring others to learn more about assistive technology.
Please visit the VDOE Assistive Technology Network (https://atnetwork.ttaconline.org) website to get more detail.
Consideration of AT in the IEP
IDEA (1997) added the requirement that each IEP team consider the need for assistive technology as part of the Consideration of Special Factors. IEP teams must also document their consideration of assistive technology in the IEP plan. Some school divisions use a series of questions to guide IEP team discussions about goals and objectives, areas of difficulty for the student, and whether AT devices or services are needed.
These consideration guides were created to assist school divisions in developing a process for consideration of AT in the IEP process. These forms and sample completed forms are provided in word format to allow local school divisions to tailor the form for their respective divisions.
Virginia Assistive Technology Resource Guide (Revised 2016)
Please visit the VDOE Assistive Technology Network (http://atnetwork.ttaconline.org) website to get more detail.
Assessment of AT
AT consideration and assessment differ in terms of depth and duration. Consideration is a short discussion that takes place during the IEP meeting to determine if current strategies are adequate or not. Assessment takes an in-depth look at the student’s abilities and difficulties and the demands of the environment and tasks. Assessment also includes the acquisition of new information (Reed & Lahm, 2004).
The Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology (QIAT) model suggests that assistive technology assessment is an ongoing continual part of educational planning and not a “one-shot” separate event. It also emphasizes that the assessment process yields recommendations based on data collected from trials with assistive technology tools used for meaningful tasks in the student’s daily environments. These indicators highlight the importance of a team approach for AT assessment. Utilizing a team approach leads to meaningful follow through with AT recommendations.
The process for assistive technology assessment applies many strategies, tools, and checklists. Assessing Students' Needs for Assistive Technology (ASNAT), 5th edition developed by the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative is considered to be a leading resource for assistive technology assessment. Forms from the ASNAT are used throughout the Virginia Assistive Technology Assessment process.
The assessment process can be broken into three steps:
The following AT assessment checklist was developed in order to assist IEP teams in tracking the AT assessment process. A column is provided which identifies forms to be used in the assessment process.
Virginia Assistive Technology Assessment Checklist (click the link to download the document)
Please visit the VDOE Assistive Technology Network (http://atnetwork.ttaconline.org) website to get more detail.
AT Tutorials and Resources
AT Tutorial Library
These tutorials include video or text based step-by-step guides about how to use of each type of software. The links will bring you to the companies website or the tutorial pages.
Automic Learning - On-demand educational technology training solutions (Subscription required)
Boardmaker by Mayer-Johnson
- Boardmaker Trial Download - Download the 30-day trial version
- Boardmaker Tutorials on Youtube - Youtube videos to learn how to use Boardmaker software
- BoardmakerShare - Online community for thousands of Boardmaker activities
Clicker 6 by Crick Software
- Clicker Trial Download - Free trial download for 28 days
- Clicker 6 Training by Crick Software - Free online trainings with Clicker 6 software
- Clicker 6 - Free Web Demonstration - Free webinar series to learn about Clicker 6 software (Registration required)
- LearningGrids - Hundreds of ready-made resources with Crick Software (Clicker, ClozePro, and WriteOnline)
Don Johnston Software
- Train-in-30 Tutorials - Train yourself in just 30 minutes with tutorials for SOLO, Co:Writer, Snap&Read, First Author, and Improv
- Show-Me-How Video Tutorials - View video tutorials that will get you started with Don Johnston products
Dragon Naturally Speaking by Nuance
Guided Demos for Dragon Naturally Speaking Pro 12 - Step-by-step instructions that cover the dictation basics
- Inspiration Software Free Trials - Download 30-day free trials of Inspiration Software, including Inspriation9, Kidspiration, and InspireData
- Kidspiration 3 - Examples of Kidspiration to use for curriculum integration such as reading & writing, math, science and social studies
- Inspiration 9 - Examples of Inspiration 9 to use for curriculum integration
- Inspiration Youtube Tutorial - Youtube video tutorial to examine how to use the Listen Tool and sounds we record to make an activity for beginning readers
Kurzweil by Cambium Learning Group
- Kurzweil Free Trials - Submit the form to get a 30-day free trial of Kurzweil Software
- Kurzweil Video Tutorials - Free video tutorials to demonstrate how to use Kurzweil software
Read and Write Gold by TextHELP
- Read & Write GOLD Free Trials - Free download for 30 days
- Read & Write GOLD Tutorials - Video tutorials
- Demonstrations and Tutorials for Picture It and PixWriter- Youtube tutorials for Picture It and PixWriter
- Free Files with Picture It - Download free samples made with Picture it.
Video Tutorials for Assistive Devices by the NATRI (National Assistive Technology Research Institute) - Short videos for Input Devices, Communication, Mobility, Vision Aids, Switches, and Software
Instructional Supports Using AT
Communication and Visual Supports
- PictureSET Resources - A collection of downloadable visual supports that can be used by students for both receptive and expressive communication in the classroom, at home, and in the community
- Patrick Ecker : Augmentative and Alternative Communication - Free graphics and pictures activities to support students' learning
Differentiation Daily by Paula Kluth - A blog to help teachers teach all learners in K-12 classrooms
Dinah Zikes Foldables - Hands-on manipulatives for reading, math, science, and social skills
Microsoft Office for Education
- Microsoft Accessibility in Education - Accessibility resources for educators
- Talking books as assistive technology
- Graphic Organizers with PowerPoint - Concept mapping using Microsoft PowerPoint
SMART Exchange - Online community to find, preview and download Lesson plans and resources for SMART Board
Tech Matrix - Assistive and educational technology tools and resources to support learning for students with disabilities
Universal Design for learning
- CAST-Center for Applied Special Technology (http://www.cast.org)
- National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (http://aem.cast.org )
- Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning by David H. Rose & Anne Meyer (Book)
Technology for Math
- Illuminations by NCTM- Interactive lessons and activities to teach math
- NLVM (National Library of Virtual Manipulatives) - A digital library containing virtual manipulatives for K-12 Math
- AT tools for math
- Assistive Technology Devices for Math by GPAT - A range of assistive technology that can support students struggling in math
Technology for Reading and Writing
- Startfall.com - Free interactive web site for children to read using phonics
- ReadWriteThink - A collection of interactive templates and resources for Reading and Writing
- Assistive Technology Devices for Reading by GPAT - A range of assistive technology supports for struggling readers to increase reading proficiency
- Assistive Technology Devices for Writing and Spelling by GPAT - A range of assistive technology supports for struggling writers to increase the legibility, complexity, and accuracy of their written products
Graphic Organizer Apps
- Popplet Lite - Great for brainstorming, organizing, mind mapping. Easy to use.
- Idea Sketch - offers a linear as well as a graphic view as an organizing tool
- SimpleMInd + - mind mapping app
- Inspiration Lite- can make five maps using the extensive template library or create your own from scratch
- Kidspiration Lite - the visual way to explore and understand words, numbers and concepts for grades K-5
- Mind Mup - Easy to use mind mapping/brainstorming tool, offers Google Drive or Dropbox storage
- Lucid Chart - collaborative diagrams for mind mapping, brainstorming.
- Bubbl.us - Brain Storming and Organizing Tool good for visual thinkers/learners, EASY to use, very simple, customizable features, sharing capabilities
- Popplet - fun tool for mind maps, graphic organizers, concept maps. Can create up to five at no cost
- XMIND - Free version offers ability to upload to Evernote and share
- Creately - offers online diagramming and collaboration. Access the free version here.
- Coggle - online collaborative graphic organizing/mind mapping tool
- Read/Write/Think Story Map Tool - Quickly create a visual of complex information, EASY, can't share
- Read/Write/Think Graphic Map Tool - designed to be used as part of the pre-writing process to identify high and low points related to the subject. It could be a reaction to a book, writing about an event or a day, etc.
- Cacoo - graphic organizer, allows synchronous collaboration as well.
- Diagramly - easy to use, includes built-in graphics
- Prezi.com - Unique way to present information/ideas and concepts;interactive flow chart
- Mindomo - mind-mapping tool, has microsoft word like features
- Recall Plus - Students can organize their notes, create flashcards, make use of 3D tools and more in this great mind mapping tool. It is downloadable.
- Gliffy Create and share diagrams on the Web
- CMAP - concept maps
- Character Scrapbook- Analyze characters with this organizer from Scholastic
- CAST Science Writer- Helps students write a science lab report using chunking, prompting, and graphic organize
Apps for Special Education
- iOS apps developed by Kellar Institute in GMU (coming soon)
- iPad Accessibility Facilitation Materials - Online modules for educators to understand iPad features that support students with disabilities
- iPads for Special Needs - Learn to get the most out of the iPad with special needs users
- iPad for Special Education by Spectronics - A collection of apps to help students with disabilities learn in reading, writing, math, speaking and listening
- Apps on Special Education by Lauren Enders (Pinterest) - A collection of apps and accessories for Special Education
- A4CWSN:Apps for Children with Special Needs - A website that is designed to support educators and parents with educational apps by demonstrating how to use them
- iPhone/iPad Apps for AAC by Jane Farrall - A collection of AAC apps by 3 categories, including symbols/pictures based, symbols/text-to-speech based, and text based apps<
- There's a special app for that series by inov8 - A series of 11 app collections for Special Education (i.e., video modeling, behavior management....)
- Android apps for Special Education (Pinterest by Lauren Enders) - A collection of Android apps to support students with disabilities
Geoffrey Weber, M.Ed.,
Assistive Technology Coordinator