What is AT?

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Assistive technology (AT) can be a device or service that allows a student with a disability greater independence and self-reliance, participation in the general education curriculum, more opportunity to progress toward his/her educational goals and opportunities for inclusion with his/her same age peers. AT has the potential to improve the overall quality of life for an individual with a disability. Assistive technology devices range from low-tech tools such as pencil grippers and reading guides to high-tech items like computers and communication devices with dynamic displays.

According to IDEA (1997) and the Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for Children with Disabilities in Virginia (2002), an AT device is defined as:

“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 the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.”

This broad definition includes a wide variety of items that might be considered assistive technology devices. Consideration of devices can be categorized into the following areas of need:

  • Writing
  • Spelling
  • Reading
  • Math
  • Study/Organizational Skills
  • Listening/Seeing
  • Communication
  • Aids to Daily Living
  • Recreation, Leisure, and Adaptive Play
  • Positioning, Seating, and Mobility
  • Computer Access
  • Electronic Aids to Daily Living
  • Other

IDEA (1997) also defines an AT service as:

“any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device.”

These services include:

  • evaluation of needs, including a functional evaluation, in the child’s customary environment;
  • purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices;
  • selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing of assistive technology devices;
  • coordinating with other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs;
  • training or technical assistance for a child with disabilities, or where appropriate that child’s family; and training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education and rehabilitation services), employers or others who provide services to employ, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of children with disabilities

Helpful Documents and Resources


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