IEP Teams Must Consider Assistive Technology Devices and Services Every Time a Student's IEP is Developed, Reviewed, or Revised

Assistive technology (AT) devices and services must be considered every time a student's IEP is developed, reviewed, or revised.

U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) clears up misconceptions about this requirement in its new guidance document "Myths and Facts Surrounding Assistive Technology Devices and Services" and the "Dear Colleague" letter accompanying it.

This is supported by § 300.324(a)(2)(v), which states each IEP team must "consider whether the child needs assistive technology devices and services consider" and by § 300.324(b)(2), which states, "in conducting a review of the child’s IEP, the IEP Team must consider the special factors described in paragraph (a)(2) of this section."

What You Need to Know

IDEA Does Not Require AT Evaluations

IDEA does not require AT evaluations. However, that doesn't mean that they can't or shouldn't be done.

Parents and/or staff can request and/or propose an evaluation to determine a student's needs. For example, in Office for Civil Rights (OCR) case 01-21-1596, failure to provide an AT evaluation in a timely manner was one of the main focuses of the investigation into Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School. In this case, the evidence indicates the parent initiated the request for the evaluation.

USDOE states an evaluation may be needed "when it comes to determining an appropriate AT device that the child would need to use throughout the school day, such as read-aloud software, or the use of peer readers during different academic periods."

Parents and staff can request and/or propose a functional evaluation that may "include observations of the child’s interactions across different locations in school and at home and identify strengths and weaknesses the child has in completing tasks. This evaluation can provide data and information to determine when and why an AT device and service is needed and could then be matched with an appropriate AT device and service based on the child’s needs."

IDEA Does Require Knowledgeable Team Members Make Decisions

IEP team members are required to make decisions regarding a student's needs for AT devices and/or services.

In "Myths and Facts", USDOE provides the reminder that, "if IEP Team members lack knowledge about AT options to support the child’s needs, they must engage other individuals who are knowledgeable about AT options in the decision-making process." In addition, USDOE states team members " could also contact their State or territory AT program for additional technical assistance on appropriate AT devices and services."

IDEA Does Require a Statement of Special Education and Related Services and Supplementary Aids and Services

34 C.F.R. §§ 300.320(a)(4) requires IEPs to include "a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statement of the program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided to enable the child—(i) To advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals; (ii) To be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum in accordance with paragraph (a)(1) of this section, and to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities; and (iii) To be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children in the activities. . ."

To achieve all of this, IEP teams have to make informed decisions. While they might not be required to propose AT evaluations, they are required to identify and address the unique needs of students—which requires observing the student, collecting data related to the student, and administering evaluations to determine the needs of the student.