Rationale for Assistive/Adaptive Technology

Well, money makes the world go ’round….right?  Everybody is always wanting more money, especially in the field of education.  More money for teacher salaries, more money for supplies, more money for programs, more money for buildings, more money for transportation, more money for sports, all of it very important to one degree or another.  Special needs students have always seemed to me personally to have less than what they truly need, especially the higher the level of education they find themselves in.

So, the first question that came to my mind was “What exactly is an adaptive technology device?”.  According to IDEA an assistive technology device is “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.”.  However, this does not include medical devices implanted within the student.  So, now we have a general idea of what adaptive technology is.  The next question is who funds adaptive technology for schools?

According to the Assistive Technology Integration Association schools provide the base funding for adaptive technology.  This tends to be very general and differs from district to district unless a student’s IEP specifically mentions a certain adaptive technology.  I think it is left general and vague unless an IEP mentions it because of the funding problems.  The overwhelming number of students among the student body that makes up any public school do not need adaptive technology to help them.  That dictates that the overwhelming amount of funding must go to serving them.

There needs to be support for all students in the terms of having resources available to help them be successful.  Schools tend to have adaptive technology available that serves a general purpose such as iPads loaded with various special education learning apps and software tools that serve most special needs students.  However, there will always be a gap that needs to be filled in to help students who have more specific needs depending on what their special needs are.  So, what is available to help educators provide resources for these special needs students with more specific needs?

School districts often have to turn to State and National grants to help make up funding gaps so that they can meet IDEA requirements.  Educators have had to also turn to insurance companies, private associations, and Medicaid to help pay for adaptive technology devices that they believe are needed to serve their special needs students.  This is extremely time consuming with many requests being turned down the first time (Reed & Walser, 2009).  It is something that special educators in my building see as a big part of their stress, having to find funding for resources they need and then collecting the evidence to show why there is a need.

There is no denying that there are needs across the board in education, but I don’t believe that more of a district’s budget should be allocated for adaptive technology purposes unless specifically required in an IEP.  I’ll be the first to admit that I am nowhere near tough enough to handle the stresses that come with being a Special Education Teacher.  Those people are incredible and often have an impossible and thankless job at times.  There is high turnover in this field because of the toll it takes on people for many reasons.  Most schools have to make tough choices on funding but speaking for just my district, administrators have always gone out of their way to make sure they address as many of the needs of special education in as fair and equitable way as possible.


Reed & Walser. (2009). Assessing Student’s Needs for Assistive Technology. 

Retrieved from http://www.wati.org/content/supports/free/pdf/ASNAT5thEditionJun09.pdf

2 thoughts on “Rationale for Assistive/Adaptive Technology

  1. Allan, you are right about the almighty dollar. In California we have a specific state fund for low-incidence disability supports, but the paperwork is a bit cumbersome. I have found our district special education folks to be fairly reticent to write assistive or adaptive technology into a student’s IEP because, of course, we are then obligated to provide it. However, I know that our state fund for such supports is never tapped out in a year, so I am not sure why there is such hesitation. In my mind, its about equity (as opposed to equality), and we have an obligation to get all students to a point where they can participate in the curriculum if we can.


  2. Allan~ Interesting. I wonder if having a dedicated grant writer might help in securing funding or actual equipment for adaptive technologies. I know that my friends w/ children who require adaptive technology rely on insurance companies to help, but it requires a dedicated team writing letters, etc to ensure that the student gets the required technology.


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