Besides the fact that Assistive Technology consists of materials and/or services specifically tailored to support the increase, maintainence, or improvement of the skills of an individual with special needs, another aspect important to understand about A.T. is that there is a range of levels of intervention that fall in to this category:
This applies to both types of materials/devices and services.
Low tech A.T. materials include slant boards, highlighters, colored overlays, pencil grips, sticky notes, index cards, and the like; in short, this category covers items that are relatively easy to access, quick to set up, and affordable – and that don’t take much, if any, training in order to use them effectively. The level of A.T. service that goes along with this type of materials is light intervention; this encompasses things like brainstorming with others about the best way to help someone organize their desk, advising on how to use Velcro to hold a schedule or another item in place, and recommending a method to support participation involving low-tech materials, such as having a student place a yellow overlay over reading materials to reduce the glare.
Many of these solutions seem obvious, especially to those who have been working in the field or living with an individual with special needs for any length of time. The catch, I have found from working as an Assistive Technology Specialist over the year, is that the most predictable or most often used techniques in using these materials do not always meet the needs of every individual; sometimes the components being used (either the methods or the materials – or both) are not working at all, and other times they may be working to some degree but still be leaving room for improvement. That’s when an A.T. Specialist can be helpful in thinking outside the box, in educating others on the latest research or practice ideas, bringing new products or implementation strategies to the table, and in brainstorming with the team to come up with other ideas that may provide a better solution to the problem.
Here’s an example of A.T. Intervention in a low-tech A.T. and light intervention:
This project can be used for several things that fall under the heading of low-tech Assistive Technology, including an eye-gaze frame for an individual needing augmented communication, a toy holder for a child with physical access difficulty, a story board for a young child with cognitive and/or physical access challenges, and a book stand, for a person with impaired strength, mobility, and/or grasping skills. I have constructed several pieces of equipment similar to this for these and other purposes; I think my next project is going to be to try to make a switch mount for tabletop use. In researching ideas to create a project like that, I came across a resource that is a great source of information about how to make low-tech A.T. items out of PVC pipe:
The Assistive Technology Educational Network in Florida has compiled a free downloadable book that explains how PVC pipe can be used to create Assistive Technology products. The book includes plans for 22 projects including easels, sensory equipment, and switch mounts – all great things to consider when working with people with motor impairments, neurological disorders, cognitive delays, sensory processing deficits, visual-motor coordination problems, visual impairments, visual-perceptual disorders, and more. PVC pipe is readily available, relatively inexpensive, lightweight, and highly adaptable – all great qualities of low-tech A.T. materials.