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The ERIC/OSEP Special Project

OSEP, Ideas that Work

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Development funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs


Family Goals Determine Ultimate Success of Assistive Technology

Generally thought to be helpful to any student whose needs seem to require them, assistive devices or services are useful only if the student's family wants them. A recent OSEP-sponsored study at Southeast Missouri State University focused on the need for IEP teams to be sensitive to family concerns, goals, and expectations for their child with disabilities. This is particularly important in the case of culturally and linguistically diverse families.

In establishing assistive technology (AT) goals, IEP teams need to consider certain factors relating to the family's perception of their child's disability and also their ability to understand and implement the devices. Some families, for instance, prefer that their children remain dependent on family and community resources rather than have them gain independence by means of the AT device or service. Some families may want their children to be included with their peers, but others may be afraid that the device will mark their child as out of the ordinary, and still others may feel doubly stigmatized by the AT, already having to cope with the stigma of their minority status.

The key to successful implementation of AT in the IEP is to consider the appropriateness of the device or service for a particular child, within the context of the family. The researchers formulated a detailed list of family goals and expectations regarding assistive technology, potential positive and negative outcomes, and possibly IEP responses in light of those outcomes. They also provide a helpful set of questions team members can pose to families regarding acceptance of the device within the family and community, expectations of results to be gained from its use, and the resources available within the family concerning its implementation.

This research points out the importance of considering individual needs over generalized expectations to ensure that effective decision making occurs. "Such sensitivity to the family," the study notes, "has the potential to ensure that appropriate assistive technology devices are identified, secured, and implemented effectively, in school, home, and community settings."

The study was funded by the Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (Grant #H029K950072; Phil Parette, project director) and is reported in Parette, Phil, and McMahan, Gale A., "What Should We Expect of Assistive Technology: Being Sensitive to Family Goals," TEACHING Exceptional Children 23 no. 1 (Sept./Oct 2002): 56-61. This article contains the list of recommendations for dealing with family goals and expectations when considering applying an assistive technology, and is available online at: http://journals.cec.sped.org/

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Last updated: February 10, 2003

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