A couple of weeks ago I made a post on the top barriers to implementing assistive technology. In it I discussed the top 10 barriers we found when surveying school districts. I then put the barriers into categories. The largest category was guideline and procedure barriers. This is no surprise because effective implementation of assistive technology usually starts with having solid guidelines in place. In fact, one of the most requested workshops I do is working with teams to develop guidelines. I’ve included some of the things I cover in these workshops in this post. I hope that you find them beneficial and will add any additional resources you find to the comments section below.
Work through the QIAT Matrices
The Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology (QIAT) website contains a wealth of information. If I were to only use one resource during a workshop on developing AT guidelines it would be this site. On day one of a 2 day workshop on developing guidelines I will have participants work through the self evaluation matrices available on the site. This basically takes you through all 8 indicators and provides descriptions of what poor through excellent implementation of each indicator looks like. Teams rate themselves to see how well (or poorly) they feel they are doing in each area. This is a great place to start because not only does it get groups thinking, but it also gives me a framework for facilitating the remainder of the workshop.
Do a Google Search on AT Guidelines
It’s tough to start from scratch when developing AT guidelines for a district. Therefore I always have teams search for Guidelines other districts or states use to get an idea of how they would like the “layout” of their guidelines to appear. A simple search of “AT Guidelines” will produce results from Michigan to Minnesota, Hawaii, New Zealand and more.
Develop a Flow Chart
Rarely is the expectation that a fully developed set of guidelines accepted by everyone in a district be complete in two days. However, requiring two days to work on these things better produce something. At a minimum I like to have a flow chart of what the process will look like in a district. I like this flow chart to be complete with names. For example, the top of the chart may be an event (IEP meeting for a student for example). During this meeting AT must be considered (I use the BEEC AT consideration guide to help with this). There are typically three possible outcomes from this question: 1.) No AT needed, 2.) AT Needed, Document in IEP 3.) AT may be needed, request consult or evaluation. Options 1 and 2 are pretty straight forward. Option 3 requires some work however. Developing a flow chart will help to know where to go from this point. For example, a team in a district will likely change depending on the school a student is in, the area of AT needed (communication, writing supports, etc…), and the availability of staff. Developing a flow chart that shows who is responsible in various situations will be a tremendous asset. I recommend developing the flowchart in Google Docs or another format that allows everyone to have access.
Disseminate the Information
AT Guidelines will be a living document. Staff will come and go, modifications to documents will need to be made and up to date information will always need to be available. Creating a document, then printing and disseminating to all staff will stay to up to date for a few months, however creating your guidelines as a wiki will allow folks to always have the most up to date information at their fingertips. This is great from a district perspective as well because once a change is made the entire district will have access to it without having to wait for version 1.1 to be printed and released.
This post could go on forever, but I think I’ve already exceeded the length that most of our attention spans can handle in one setting. The take away is that successful AT Implementation is dependent upon having solid guidelines in place. Having 3 people in a district develop some bullet points isn’t enough. You need buy in from everyone. Using some of the ideas above in combination with staff meeting discussions and plenty of revisions will eventually get you to that point. Just remember that we’ve only scratched the surface in this post. Reviewing all of the indicators on the QIAT website will show all of the areas that must be considered when putting guidelines in place.