This year I was lucky enough to share some of my experiences at Closing the Gap. My partner, Nicole VanderZouwen, and I spoke about getting started with the AAC evaluation process. We spoke at length about what types of systems we consider and our experience with adapting systems based on access. Check out our presentation here!
One of the follow up questions we received was “do you have a specific form or process you use to get started?” We do! And we’ve been refining our process for the past year, though I still think we’re not all the way there yet! You can download our form here. We also created a document to the AT Referral Process for team members to reference.
Essentially, we have asked that if ANY member of the team thinks the student has assistive technology needs, they should start the referral form. All team members have to complete the form before the team meets. This helps everyone to have some background information about the student and be on the same page. This is especially helpful for me as the AT Specialist, as I don’t know all of the students as well as I would like!
Often, before we meet I like to go and observe the student in the classroom. Sometimes I like to observe a speech session but often I like to see the student in an academic group. If I think I will be struggling with access decisions, I may see the student with the PT or OT before the team meeting.
Next, we all meet to talk about different AAC options the student may benefit from. We have recently begun to include looking at literacy, alternative pencils, and computer access. Previously, after we decided on options to try, team members would sign up for times to work with the student and use the AAC system. We often made a data book for the student that included a notes section so team members could see what the student did in previous sessions. We would meet up after a month or communicate via email and decide on an AAC system that the school would provide or that we would attempt to get through insurance.
Recently, several teams at our school have been really open to interdisciplinary screenings and evaluations. By this, I mean that after the team discusses options to try, we pick an hour time slot that we are all available to work with the student, together! It has been incredibly helpful!! The physical therapist and occupational therapist often provide key insight into optimal positioning and support for the student. In one recent session, the PT helped a student stabilize himself on a stability ball while the speech therapist and occupational therapist worked with the student to use a Tobii Eye Gaze system. After several minutes, he was able to activate simple games and seemed to be really enjoying himself! Next, the PT and OT discussed how we can position the student in his Rifton chair to provide support similar to what he had on the stability ball. The teacher, myself, 1:1 aide, and speech therapist all had the benefit of watching exactly how to position the student to help him best access the eye gaze device. Now as we commence with device trials to determine if this is something we should pursue for the student to obtain through insurance, everyone is on the same page and we have already handled most of the troubleshooting issues!
It’s not always easy to get all team members on board to do an interdisciplinary evaluation. Sometimes physical therapists, occupational therapists, and behavior specialists have asked me why they need to be involved since this is a “speech thing.” But the best results we have seen are when the WHOLE team is on board!
*To create the form we use, I had looked at various other AT Screening forms including the WATI Assessment package. Ultimately, with the help of colleagues, I created a shorter form that typically provides me with the baseline information I need. I bring lots of questions to our team meetings based on this form. It is not intended to be an assessment, it is just a form our team fills out to start a referral for assistive technology.*