Way back in the dark ages neither AT (1990) nor accommodations (1997) had seen the light of day in IDEA. In IDEA, AT can be found in Section 300.105 and under Section 300.324, a, (2) (consideration of special factors). In IDEA, the term “accommodations” is found in 300.160 (Participation in assessments). Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act references the word accommodations in several places, but never directly references it in Part D, Preschool, Elementary, and Secondary Education. Schools, however, have applied “accommodations” to children with disabilities and in Accommodations Plans which is also not found within the law.
Annually, the IEP team is to review the need for AT and accommodations (minimally under state and local testing situations) and under a Section 504 Plan review.
IDEA never provided an explanation of what AT or accommodations included and as with most federal education laws, states were to figure out its meaning and a process for determining the need for both. As a result, AT and accommodations can be requested with little regard to long-term effects and few are being measured to determine if they work, or if the child even needs or uses them—or worse if he was trained on how to use them. Of course, it is equally important to train teachers on the use of AT.
Joy Zabala created the SETT Framework that I used across my district and found it to be extremely helpful in determining if a need existed and in choosing the correct piece of equipment or accommodation. Also, key to this working was the essential components of training and evaluating its actual use and usefulness to the student.
In short, the SETT Framework is not intended as a process for obtaining either AT or accommodations. It is set of modules to include in determining IF the AT or accommodation is needed, and in knowing why and how it would be of benefit to the child by looking at the
Student (the child)
- special needs, and
Environment (the settings for learning)
- instructional areas and
- materials available to everyone
Tasks (the educational demands placed on the child)
- requirements placed on the student to obtain IEP goals
- requirements of participation, class assignments, and
Tools (the instructional materials or devices),
- audio equipment,
- writing implements and
- anything else that is needed to help the child succeed
Too often IEP teams will jump directly to “tools” with limited consideration of its need. The key questions to ask AND answer are what are the child’s needs, how can we meet the needs and whether the child will make progress toward achieving the goals in the IEP without the AT device.
I cannot go into the specifics of a training session in this blog, but I can direct you to Zabala’s website where you can read in more about how to conduct the process of determining the what, why and how of selecting an AT device.
Please understand that the SETT does not lay out the steps to take, but lays out the areas that must be considered when properly evaluating a need for and selection of AT if required.
And lastly, I feel that the framework of the SETT can readily be applied to the selection of accommodations.
As a side note, if you want to move to a state that appears to highly support accommodations for testing over instruction, consider the state of Louisiana. Louisiana has a 24-page do’s and don’ts document just for accommodations that address testing, only! Nothing is devoted to the use of instructional accommodations. I don’t think I need to say any more than that.
Bottom line: there should be a thorough review of needs as outlined in the SETT Framework, but with distinct procedures and a process for determining the need for assistive technology and accommodations over an “I want this, this and oh, this would be nice, too” mindset. When decisions are based on the child’s needs and not others’ wants, the proper selection, actual implementation and favorable outcomes of AT and accommodations are enhanced. And the child’s learning experience and meeting of the IEP goals are favored outcomes and THAT is the purpose of the IEP.
So, tell me, how does your IEP team determine AT and accommodations for your child.