Current Status of Assistive Technology (AT) Implementation in Western PA

Since assistive technologies were mandated to be considered in every IEP meetings since 1997 IDEA, assistive technologies became a more important part while teaching students with disabilities. Special education teachers working in rural school districts located in western PA were interviewed in terms of perspectives of AT, assessment of AT needs, AT training, funding sources, AT items they use, and suggestions for future special educators.  Since assistive technology is mandated to be considered in every IEP meetings, local educational agencies have primary obligation to purchase students’ ATs if those devices are necessities for students’ FAPE and success since 1997 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). After this legislation, some researchers tried to examine how this legislation has been implemented in the field. National data (Bausch, Ault, Evmenova, & Behrmann, 2008; Lahm, Bausch, Hasselbring, & Blackhurstk, 2001) indicated that most ATs were being used in self-contained classrooms, students with multiple disabilities more often received AT services, speech/language pathologists most frequently delivered AT services, professionals were rarely involved in evaluating and customizing ATs, and most professionals needed more training for better usage of ATs. Only limited studies (Gitlow & Sanford, 2003; Jeffs & Morrison, 2005) reported AT implementation in rural areas;1) limited resources and services, 2) lack of knowledge in AT, and 3) more AT training needs.  The purpose of this study is to examine current status of special educators’ AT implementation in rural areas of PA. Special educators teaching in western PA were interviewed with 10 interview questions pertaining to AT needs assessment, AT training, funding resources, perspectives of AT, and suggestions for future special educators. As a result of this session, participants will be able 1) to identify what are major barriers of AT implementation in rural areas, 2) to examine current status of AT service delivery system in rural school districts, 3) to recognize what kinds of AT devices are being used by special educators in rural areas, and 4) to formulate some ideas of how we prepare future special educators for effective AT  implementation.

Young-Gyoung Kim