Assistive Technology: Ask the Expert Interview, Part 2

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Volume 9, Issue 2
November 2019

By Theresa Kaska

Welcome back to Assistive Technology: Ask the Expert Interview. This is Part 2: Assessment of Assistive Technology. In the last issue we acknowledged the challenges of navigating assistive technology (AT). Just in case you missed it, you can read Part 1: Matching Your Child’s Needs and Assistive Technology here.  The questions used in these interviews were adapted from “Checklist: What to Ask the School Before Choosing a Tool or Device.”
We will continue asking questions of AT of two experts in their field: Jackie Hersh and Jason Sepsi. Jackie Hersh is the Response to Intervention District Specialist for West Geauga School Public District in Chesterland, Ohio. Jason Sepsi is the Technology Director for the Lawrence Lower School in Brecksville, Ohio, an independent school that focuses on such educational profiles as dyslexia.
Lawrence School defines assistive technology as “any item, piece of equipment, software program or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities.”

Part 2: Assessment of Assistive Technology

Which professionals in a school are qualified to assess assistive technology tools or devices? 
An assistive technologist, speech language pathologist, and/or the school’s IEP team can make those decisions collectively. Evaluator credentials vary in terms of state certified licenses or national certifications an individual may hold.

Does my child’s school have such a professional on staff as well as available assistive technologies? If my child’s school does not have a qualified professional on staff, with whom do they contract? 
The answer varies depending on schools’, districts’, and states’ staffing and financial resources. Usually the person who evaluates your child, such as your school psychologist or speech therapist is a good point person to help you find someone.

What happens during an assessment and evaluation of AT?
This too varies based on the evaluator and the needs of the student. The goal would be to collect data for a baseline assessment to determine need and eligibility. Typically the evaluator will consider the student’s records, current classroom environment, and academic tasks, as well as tools and training needed to support the child. The evaluation report will include demographic information, family history, the child’s academic history, educational needs, etc. This information may also be included in your child’s ETR or IEP in the Profile section.

What happens after the assessment is complete? The information should be presented at a meeting with your child’s school team.

Will my child be able to try out various tools and devices? How long does it take to get the tools after they have been agreed upon?
A lot of services offer a trial of a tool before purchase. There are even some programs that offer tool rental. Once a tool has been agreed upon, the length of time it takes to procure that tool will vary.

Jackie Hersh, MSEd, B.S. joined the West Geauga School District in 2018 as their RTI (Response to Intervention) District Specialist and Middle School Department Head for Special Education. Prior to this new position, she served as the Director of Assistive Technology and learning support at Lawrence Upper School, with over ten year’s experience as an intervention specialist. Jackie has presented at Closing the Gap, the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA), and the International Dyslexia Association on topics regarding assistive technology as well as at local symposiums and conferences. She has served on the board of the North East Ohio International Dyslexia Association, as well as a steering committee member for WVIZ Technology Innovation for Northeast Ohio. Jackie is also a Google Level 1 and 2 Educator. Her passions include equity, assistive technology, and coaching teachers and students about educational technologies to empower our learners and to ensure our students have tools to support their learning! You can follow her on twitter at @JHJhersh.

Jason Sepsi began teaching at Lawrence School in 2005. He is currently the Lower School Technology Director and art teacher for grades K–6. He has implemented a 1:1 Chromebook program for 5th and 6th grade students, and a 1:1 iPad program for lower elementary grades. He is a graduate of Cleveland State University and has presented at several local technology events.


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