Assessing Student Technology Needs


This is an extract from, the website of Shelley Haven, a US based specialist in Assistive Technology. Please check out in more detail what Shelley has to say about matching a student to the right AT tools. She is an inspiring teacher.


More than anything, matching an individual with the appropriate assistive technology involves asking, and seeking answers to, the right questions — about the tasks where the student has difficulties, the student’s abilities and challenges, and the context in which the student performs those tasks.




Working collaboratively with individuals, families, school teams, and other providers, I use a “best practices” approach to gather information, conduct trials with various assistive technologies, and brainstorm potential solutions aimed at minimizing the impact of learning deficits and capitalizing on the individual’s learning strengths.


Generally, the initial AT assessment process comprises five “phases”:


1.           Define the problem and “consider” assistive technology -What does the student need to do, but can’t (or has difficulty doing) because of a disability or  learning difference? If the student cannot adequately perform these tasks using existing strategies and accommodations, consider whether use of assistive technology tools might help.

2.           Gather relevant data about the student strengths and needs, tasks, barriers to performance, learning environments, and the student’s current level of performance in      his/her customary environments. Much of this comes from existing documents,      but also from interviews with teachers or family, classroom observations, and working one-on-one with the student.

3.          Generate potential solutions – Based on the information collected, identify tools, strategies, and supporting services which hold  promise to improve performance, increase participation, and/or increase independence.

4.         Conduct AT trials – Develop and implement an AT trial plan, including timelines and criteria for determining success, and collect measurable data on the impact to student performance in the  student’s customary environments. This is often conducted over an extended  period in collaboration with the school district staff and others. The goal is to validate the effectiveness of the chosen technologies so as to      provide greater confidence about the decisions.

5.         Integrate successful/appropriate AT tools and strategies – Analyse results, determine most appropriate tools and strategies based  on the trials (or whether additional trials are needed), and develop a plan to implement the recommended technology. Document required tools and strategies in student’s IEP.


Reconsideration and additional assessment should be conducted as needs change, tasks change, performance improves, or the student’s needs are no longer being met by the current technology.



Here at Quantum we have staff with decades of experience in helping teachers  find the right solutions for their students. We also strongly recommend trialling of devices with the student as a crucial step in the assessment process, and we are happy to facilitate this for you. Call us to find out how we can help.