Assistive Technology Under IDEA

Published on November 3, 2009 by Jennifer Laviano


Did you know that Assistive Technology is required, by federal law, to be considered in the development of EVERY SINGLE IEP?

Yes, that’s right.  AT should be discussed every time an IEP is being developed.

The IDEA states that the IEP Team “must,” in the development of IEPs, “consider whether the child needs assistive technology devices and services.”  34 CFR 300.324

Okay, now that I’ve gotten your attention, let’s back up a little bit.  What is Assistive Technology?

The IDEA defines both AT “devices” and “services.”

According to the definitions, an Assistive Technology Device “means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability.”  The definition of an AT device under the IDEA excludes “a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of such device.”  20 USC 1401

An Assistive Technology Service “means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device.”  This includes the following:

  • an evaluation of the needs of a student, “including a functional evaluation of the child in the child’s customary environment,”
  • the “purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of” AT devices;
  • “selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing” AT devices;
  • the “coordination” of other “therapies, interventions, or services” with AT devices “such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs,”
  • the training and technological assistance necessary for the child “or, where appropriate, the family of such child,” and training and technological assistance necessary for “professionals, employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions” of the student.  20 USC 1401


Assistive Technology can be “high tech” or “low tech.”

It can be as complicated as a personalized augmentative communication device, and as simple as a watch programmed to go off whenever a student requires additional support.

For some students, AT can make the difference between meaningful access to the educational environment, and complete exclusion.  The subject encompasses a great deal.  It’s a lot to think about…but it must be.  In the development of every, single IEP.


2 Responses to Assistive Technology Under IDEA

  1. Tricia Catlin
    April 29th, 2010 | 1:31 am

    It’s awfully new technology, so how crazy would I be to request an iPad for a kid with a written expression LD and small motor skill problems? i.e. he can’t even read his own handwriting.

    I’ve never seen him ‘take’ to anything like that – he’s practically a technophobe, a kid from another age, I guess. He picked it up, flipped it over and started writing (typing). I thought I would faint right there in Best Buy.

    I’d like to believe our school district is better than most, but they have historically been averse to AT for him. Which is bizarre, but there you have it.

  2. Jennifer Laviano
    April 29th, 2010 | 5:38 pm

    I don’t think you’d be crazy to ask for it; the story you shared is quite compelling. Perhaps start by asking for an independent, OUTSIDE AT evaluation, and then ask that person whether this would be appropriate technology for him. Then you’d have it documented. Exciting that something seems to have inspired him, and I’d say run with it! Good luck!


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