Is it possible for assistive technology (AT) to be considered when I meet with the team to write our first Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) for my child?
Assistive technology and other adaptations can be considered at various times while your child has an IFSP. A logical place to start is during the initial IFSP development and writing of the first IFSP document. When discussing your concerns, priorities, and the development of child outcomes, the conversation can involve any way AT can be used to help your child achieve those outcomes. This discussion can also occur at the six-month review of the IFSP, or whenever the IFSP is reviewed and amended. If your family adds new routines or activities, AT can be considered as a way to increase your child’s participation.
My child does not use a computer or communication device. Will the IFSP team consider the use of AT for my child?
The scope of AT is really broad and includes a wide range of devices and materials. AT is defined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as, “Any piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially or off the shelf, modified or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.” In other words, anything that can help your child participate in an activity or perform a skill could be considered assistive technology. For instance, if one of the outcomes on your child’s IFSP is about learning to eat independently, an adapted spoon that helps your child do that could be considered as AT. Looking at daily routines and activities can help the team consider ways AT could be used to increase your child’s participation or learning.
My child is not using verbal communication. How do I know what type of AT device she should use to communicate?
The IFSP team, which includes you, should talk about your concerns and do an AT evaluation to determine the most appropriate method of communication for your daughter at this stage of her development. For instance, the team may decide that using a picture board would help your child make daily choices — what kind of drink to have at snack time, which toy to play with, or what clothes to wear. A member of the team could help you create the picture board and show you how to use it. As your daughter grows up, the team may recommend a more advanced communication device and you could try different devices at that time.
I believe that my child would benefit from the use of an iPad and a communication device. Can I purchase them and then submit the receipts to the school district for reimbursement?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools to provide assistive technology if the IEP team determines that a child needs it to receive an appropriate education. The team must plan for acquiring, operating, maintaining, and repairing assistive technology, as well as training the child, staff, and family in its use and care. Because this is a team decision and there is a wide variety of devices that may be needed in order to provide an appropriate education for your child, you cannot assume that the school district will reimburse you if you purchase a device on your own. As part of determining the need for assistive technology, the IEP team should do an assistive technology evaluation to determine what device(s) are needed. Once this evaluation is done, the IEP should include information on what devices will be used, how they will be used, where they will be used, and how they will be maintained.