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What is Assistive Technology?

For our purposes, this can be considered a simple, operational definition. The key word here is SYSTEM. We are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that no person uses the same communication or productivity tool for ALL tasks. Even in this situation, where the written word is primary among our communication, we are able to insert nuances in the way we choose and type our words. You have already seen me use symbols :) and EMPHASIS and other such things to vary the weight of my comments.. and, in case of "emergency" we can always resort to the telephone or , if we are at the same conference, meet each other face to face!

Once I asked a person who worked regularly with a child I was about to meet, if that child used environmental eye gaze for communicative purposes. I was told, "No. We are WAY beyond that!" That was interesting to me, for verbose as I may be, environmental eye gaze is still a powerful part of my communication system, as are natural gestures and a variety of other strategies! As we go about developing effective communication and productivity systems, I believe it is important to keep in mind that only in rare situations are we seeking to replace one modality with another. To me, it is more appropriate to enhance what is already working for a student with additional tools and strategies and then provide opportunities for the student to know how to pick and choose from the system the appropriate tools for the situation.

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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.

ŠEducation Development Center, Inc.