As defined by the Department of Education, Assistive Technology (AT) is everything that assists a child with special needs with a functional, educational, and self-care task. AT includes utilization of adaptive equipment, technology and communication systems to help students achieve their personal and educational goals. Assistive Technology at iBrain strives to meet the student where they are in the hopes of improving their ability to express themselves and interact with the world around them. Participation may require our students to utilize various access methods (i.e. a way to physically activate an item, switch or stimulus) indicating a child’s ability to select a preferred item or complete a task. One example may include one’s ability to activate a switch with one’s thumb to turn on a blender to assist in pureeing food for intake or to create smoothies for a class party. Another example includes the use of head array on a power seated device to select direction of turn when learning how to drive a wheelchair towards their favorite classroom.
Assistive Technology is woven into every department at iBrain to incorporate the goal of inclusion and communication of our students. Communication provides a voice to our students in a culture that attempts to assume their desires. All communication systems are utilized at the International Institute for the Brain to build a bridge of the student’s participation between the program and home environment.
Aided communication systems range from no-tech to low-tech to high-tech:
No-tech communication includes objects, people, or items occurring naturally in the immediate environment. These are used as words, key concepts, referents, or symbols to communicate.
Low-tech communication can involve photos, line drawings, picture symbols, representational objects, words, alphabet boards, sentence boards, eye-gaze boards, and simple speech-generating devices.
High-tech Speech-generating devices include Digitized voice output switches with single or multiple messages, Digitized voice output devices with overlays allowing for an array of
choices ranging from 2 to 32 or more, and Digitized voice output devices with interactive screens. High-tech communication refers to dedicated devices and computers adapted to be speech-generating devices. High-tech communication devices have text-to-speech features. Training is likely needed to program and adapt for use. High-tech communication devices often require coordination with a team of professionals and experts for ongoing technical support, maintenance, programming, upgrading, and repair.
There is no hierarchy to these communication systems. The choice depends on what is most efficient and appropriate for the situation and your child.