The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, written in 2004, states that Assistive Technology 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 the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.” I find this definition of AT to be somewhat ambiguous, as it does not address the technology aspect at all. The clearest part of this specific definition is that the goal is to cater to students with disabilities. Because of this lack of specificity in the means through which this can be done, assistive technology can therefore be anything--any item, piece of equipment, or product system–that helps children with disabilities. When learning more about this, I began to question whether the “item” needed to be technology at all. In 2017, when we hear the word technology, we tend to think of things like computers, laptops, recording devices, tablets, kindles, and smartphones.
However, before the development of all these types of devices and software programs, assistive technology consisted of more basic items and systems that sought to “increase, maintain, or improve the functional capacities of children with disabilities.” Our professor, Dr. Zipke, has explained that chalk, when it was first invented, was considered AT in that it helped students in a classroom environment read spoken word. When brainstorming topics for my final project on phonological awareness, an idea that came to mind was one of my three lessons I did with my case study student this semester where we used home-made magnets that could be cut up and broken apart to show students how inflectional endings could be added to cvc-e words (that they needed to drop the ‘e,’ but keep the long vowel, when adding -ing, -ed, or -es onto the word). In doing this, we were able to visibly break apart and combine the words with their endings in order to represent the rule we were learning about. My first thought about this lesson was that it, in a sense, could be considered AT. In the lesson, I used a “customized” “item” in order to “increase” a student with a specific learning disability’s phonological awareness. Although I used materials that were not 21st century, computer-based technology, I was able to help a student improve upon his phonological awareness skills through the use of manipulatives. In a sense, my lesson was in fact AT based.