How do I get started when considering assistive technology for a student?
Assistive technology is sometimes called ‘specialised equipment’ or ‘assistive equipment’ and can be described as:
“Simply anything that can help a person with disabilities to do something they cannot do, or help them to do it better than they can without it”.1
If you are considering assistive technology support for a student, please follow these steps:
1. School-based support
Prior to accessing the Ministry of Education’s assistive technology services school staff should have tried and evaluated a number of class and school-based interventions that provide support for students with special education needs. All schools are expected to use their Special Education Grant to provide support for students with special education needs in accordance with their special education policy (refer to Ministry of Education National Administration Guidelines).
Regular school funding covers the provision of assessments, programmes and support for all students. Support for the student includes provision of a typical range of classroom resources, together with teaching staff with the skills and confidence to support the use of these resources.
Once the options available within the student’s class and school are exhausted, the team may wish to consider further assistive technology options. The Ministry of Education provides support and guidance for those who wish to undertake a formal assistive technology evaluation.
2. Establish eligibility
School students with special education needs are eligible to be considered for assistive technology funding if they are supported through any of the current special education initiatives, such as ORS, school high health needs fund and resource teachers: learning and behaviour (RTLB).
Please refer to the eligibility factsheet for more information.
3. Assistive technology guidelines
Take time to read the assistive technology guidelines, which give in depth information about the assessment, trial and application process. They also identify who is responsible for looking after equipment.
4. Who does the assessment and application?
Assistive technology is an integral component of student support.
One of the key people working in the student’s support team acts as the lead worker for the assistive technology component. The lead-worker may be a teacher, specialist teacher, school special education needs coordinator (SENCO), RTLB or another member of the teaching team that works with the student. The lead worker partners with others in a collaborative team.
The team is often already established as part of the individual education plan (IEP) process and includes the student’s family or whānau along with teachers and appropriate specialist staff. Establishing an effective team may involve identifying extra skills and personnel required to make sure that the appropriate expertise is available to meet the needs of the student.
5. Ministry of Education support
The assessment and application process is driven by the school but, if appropriate, Ministry of Education staff already working with the student may participate in the process. This could include the psychologist, the special education advisor (SEA), the speech-language therapist (SLT), occupational therapist (OT), advisor on deaf children (AoDC) or physiotherapist (PT).
The district technology coordinator at your local Ministry of Education office facilitates and supports the work of the team and may, on occasion, be part of the team if the student’s needs are complex.
The support provided by the district technology coordinator might include general information and suggestions via a telephone conversation or, in very complex cases, may include supporting the school team throughout the assessment process. Each student’s needs are unique and call for a different approach.
6. Making a referral
If the school team needs assistance to complete an assistive technology assessment and the student is already receiving special education services, please contact the Ministry of Education staff already involved in the team. If the student is not receiving targeted special education support and the school requires assistance, it can make a referral to their local Ministry of Education office.
Referrals are made using the standard referral forms from your local Special Education office. The referral form will ask for specific information about the student and parents, and the principal must sign it to indicate all parties know and understand that a request for support has been made. Referrals are then prioritised according to the needs of the student.
If the referral is accepted an informed consent form may be needed, depending on the degree of contact our staff will have with the student. The district technology coordinator may also request more information before they can assign appropriate support services.
Please contact your local Ministry of Education office for a copy of the referral form.
If you have any queries please contact the district technology coordinator at your local Ministry of Education office.
Assistive technology getting started checklist
Are you working with a student whose successful access to the curriculum is being limited by an inability to:
- hear or see
- sit safely
- move around the school grounds
- complete activities using fine motor skills.
If the answer is yes, discuss with the student and their support team (teachers, parents, specialist staff). Consider what learning goals the student needs to achieve and what equipment you may need to trial to see if it assists the student to achieve their goals. Work together to implement class and school-based interventions.
Were the interventions successful? If yes, continue to work together to monitor and review the student's success.
If no, does the student meet the assistive technology eligibility criteria? If yes, read the assistive technology guidelines, factsheets and exemplars to understand how to support the student with assistive technology. If you need further support and guidance refer to the special education staff already involved in the student's team or contact your local Special Education office to ask for a referral form.
If no, consider other options such as using school resources.
1 Reed P. (July/August 1998). Disability Sources
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