Here’s a comment I sometimes hear about an Assistive Technology device that has been issued: “It didn’t work.” Akin to that statement are others like “The child didn’t like the device;” “He has no idea how to work it;” or “That device will never work for her.”
Sometimes, the device is at fault, and a different device or set of materials needs to be used instead.
Usually, though, the problem isn’t necessarily the device: it’s the implementation strategy – or lack thereof – that should go hand-in-hand with the issuing of the device. Following is a list of seven things that I have found to be essential to the success of a program involving the use of an A.T. device or materials:
*Thorough assessment of the interests and the needs of the individual – that is, the needs that are specific to the request for intervention by Assistive Technology. Whether or not this assessment needs to be done in the format of an A.T. Evaluation depends on many factors; sometimes an A.T. Consultation will suffice. (This will be addressed in a future entry.) In any case, though, it is recommended that at least three types of interventions (devices, strategies, sets of materials, etc.) be considered prior to the making of any equipment decisions in each case.
*A history of the interventions and/or materials that have already been tried with an individual. It’s important to note that sometimes the device that ends up being recommended has already been tried with an unfavorable result; however, with a different approach to implementing the device, the outcome may be better.
*Team participation – involvement in both the assessment process and the training/implementation of the device by more than just one teacher or therapist
*Research into products and/or strategies that could be used to address the targeted area of need: both what is available on the market and what the recommendations for use of the device or materials to be issued are. For example, for an iPad that is put in place as a communication device, it is recommended that the iPad initially be set up as a dedicated device; that is, it should be set up so that the individual will only be able to use it to access one communication app, such as the Proloquo2go. In addition, it is suggested that the iPad be placed in a protective case that is different from standard cases so that the device being used for communication will be differentiated from other iPads that may be used for other purposes (such as playing games or accessing the Internet).
*An implementation plan addressing who will do what in the training and covering the logistics of device use. The specifics for this will be covered in a future post.
*Training for involved parties, including the individual who will be using the device, caregivers, and other professionals on the case.
*Data collection to objectively determine if the device and/or strategies recommended are effective in targeting the determined area of need.
Again, Assistive Technology is so much more than the issuing of a device; the involvement of a trained A.T. professional can impact the success of a device within a program through the development of a holistic plan and by providing follow-up and troubleshooting as needed to assist in meeting the needs of the individual.