Assistive Technology Solutions for Individuals with Learning Problems: Conducting Assessments Using the Functional Evaluation for Assistive Technology (FEAT)

Assistive Technology Solutions for Individuals with Learning Problems: Conducting Assessments Using the Functional Evaluation for Assistive Technology (FEAT)

Brian Bryant (University of Texas, USA), Soonhwa Seok (eLearning Design Lab, University of Kansas, USA) and Diane Bryant (University of Texas, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-817-3.ch018


Assistive technology (AT) assessments involve a dynamic process among the evaluator, the AT user, and the AT device. When accomplished correctly, these assessments are person-centered and ecological, that is, they actively involve the individual being evaluated and incorporate the collection of data from numerous environments in which the person works, learns, and plays. This chapter provides information about how such an AT assessment can be conducted using the Functional Evaluation for Assistive Technology (FEAT; Raskind & Bryant, 2002). Readers are provided with an overview of the importance of person-centered assessments, and then are given a description of each of the FEAT components. A case study is also provided, wherein the process of an effective and efficient AT assessment is described.
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The Concept of Ecological AT Assessments

Ecological assessments provide information about the multiple environmental factors (Greenwood & Carta, 1987; Desouza & Sivewright, 1993) that affect students’ interactions as they complete the tasks or learn new behaviors. Ecological assessments allow the special education service team to match a child’s performance level and his or her needs with learning tasks, routines, and developmental needs in situated contexts. Thus, ecological assessment provides an all encompassing evaluation that considers all aspects of a student’s academic life that affect learning.

Specifically, ecological assessment techniques: (a) allow data-based decision-making on students’ progress, product, and process, leading to modification of instruction and home/classroom settings; (b) enhance students’ self-determination skills as students develop their own learning preferences (Agran, Blanchard, & Wehmeyer, 2000; Palmer, Wehmeyer, Gibson, & Agran, 2004; Wehmeyer, Palmer, Agran, Mithaug, & Martin, 2000); and (c) enhance students’ problem solving skills in various contexts by raising questions, problem, problem solving, and consequence of the solution (Turnbull, Turnbull, & Wehmeyer, 2007).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Person-technology Match: In assistive technology, this refers to the pairing of AT devices and services to a particular individual’s needs rather than to a “one size fits all” perspective.

Ecological Assessments: An assessment method that evaluates a student’s total environment to idenitfy what factors that contribute to learning or behavioral problems.

Adaptations: Specific accommodations, modifications, and supports to help individuals compensate for functional limitations and challenges.

IEP: Acronym for the Individualized Education Program, which identifies educational and related referrals for students and preschoolers with disabilities.

Assistive Technology (AT) Devices: Federally defined as “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability” (Assistive Technology Act, 2004).

Font: Typeface.

OCR: Acronym for Optical Character Recognition, a system, that may be a piece of hardware plugged into a PC or software, which translates print into a format that can be “read and spoken” by the computer or translated into Braille.

Data-based Decision-making: Involves making determinations that are based on hard evidence and facts rather than opinion or conjecture.

Scanning: An indirect method of computer access using software that automatically moves along available responses that the operator selects by activating a switch.

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