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Collection: Early Childhood

purple arrowAssistive Technology and Young Children: Getting off to a Great Start!

REFERENCE: Armstrong, J.S. and Jones, K. (1994). Assistive Technology and Young Children: Getting Off to a Great Start! Closing the Gap, 13 (3), 1, 31-32.

Description of article:

CONTEXT: The authors discuss how assistive technology services and equipment should be an integral part of early intervention and preschool services and explain the benefits, including that assistive technology:

Assistive technology and its use with young children has been refined over the years. The Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Project (PennTech) exemplifies how benefits can accrue when very young children gain access to assistive technology services. The project, part of the Instructional Support System of the Pennsylvania Department of Education and its Bureau of Special Education, provides training and technological assistance through a system of regional coordinators and local assistive technology specialists.

PRACTICE: One aspect of the PennTech program involves a short term loan program whereby children and their families can "try-out" the recommended technology during the assessment process. Kits can be borrowed for a four week trial period, so that the child can access the technology for 24 hours a day over an extended period of time and use it during actual home and school routines. Only through the use of technology during the assessment process can the team determine its utility. Logistical issues, which often "make or break" the success a child has with an assistive technology system, are identified and resolved during this process. The authors provide ideas and examples of the creative thinking and common beliefs needed to use assistive technology at home and at school:

The authors stress that assistive technology, as a tool for including children, be used not primarily as a teaching tool but as a method to meaningfully include children with disabilities into natural routines. Technology needs to be incorporated into naturally occurring activities in the child's environment. It is critical that services, in the form of developing strategies, techniques and implementation plans, are valued - even more than the device or equipment itself. The importance of the technology becomes over-emphasized, perhaps due to the difficulty the team experiences in acquiring the needed assistive devices. It is also important to devise ways of keeping the equipment with the child as environments and positions change.

Outcomes/Reflections: In order to successfully use assistive technology with very young children (birth to five), families and professionals must work together to make sure it is used effectively and integrated into natural routines. The authors include a brief list of resources with address and telephone number and references.

CONTACT(S): Janet Sloand Armstrong is an early intervention coordinator and Kelly Jones is an assistive technology specialist with the Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Center in Harrisburg, PA.

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

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