Q&A: Study breaks down AT rules

Thursday, October 22, 2015

As the role  of assistive technology professionals has become more spread out in schools, it’s become increasingly difficult to know which tasks are being performed and by whom. To that end, RESNA in October conducted a survey as part of a job analysis study to identify the core job responsibilities of assistive technology practitioners. HME News recently spoke to Daniel Cochrane, an assistive technology coordinator at Community Unit School District 200 in Wheaton, Ill., who helped develop the study, about assistive technology in schools. 

HME News: What is the purpose of the study? 

David Cochrane: Nobody has ever surveyed what assistive technology practitioners actually do. My colleagues were very excited about the possibility of using the study to help justify their positions, because sometimes it’s hard to get coordination support. Another goal is identify training needs to create training modules. 

HME: How does the study work?

Cochrane: There’s actually two steps. Six of us spent two days at the DACUM (Developing A Curriculum) Institute at Ohio State University, where subject matter experts walk you through the process of defining what your general responsibilities are and then break those down into separate tasks. The survey is to find out if we were on target with what we came up with. 

HME: Who is responsible for providing assistive technology in schools?

Cochrane: Every student with an individualized education program must (by law) be considered for assistive technology. In a school district, it’s the responsibility of the whole IEP team. If there’s an OT, PT, speech pathologist, or special education teacher on the team, they do whatever relates to them. So if it’s a seating and mobility issue, the PT or the OT would probably take the lead on that. If it’s assistive technology for reading and writing, (it may fall to) a special education teacher. It’s not cut and dry. 

HME: Is there room for improvement as far as delivering assistive technology to students?

Cochrane: Training is probably the No. 1 thing because the responsibility is so spread out. Even if you hire a dedicated coordinator, there’s 13,000 kids in the school system and 14% of them have IEPs. I wouldn’t be able to meet all those needs as one person. It comes down to building capacity, which includes a lot of training and directing your staff to things like webinars from the Assistive Technology Industry Association, RESNA or Closing The Gap.