In order to access the full curriculum and actively engage in instructional activities, Bridge School students learn to use a wide range of Assistive Technologies (AT) for learning, participation, and mobility. AT is defined formally 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 functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” (Technology Act of 1988; PL 105-394, Sec 2, a, 3).
At The Bridge School, the use of AT is not taught or evaluated in isolation, but is embedded within ongoing curricular activities and classroom routines. All our students require AT tools and strategies in order to actively participate in the educational curriculum. Decisions as to what AT is appropriate are predicated on our students’ skills, preferences, and needs as well as the demands of an academic curriculum.
We evaluate and implement a full range of AT supports and services with goals of maximizing meaningful participation in academic and social activities, promoting communication and social interactions, providing appropriate seating, positioning and mobility and providing access to activities of daily living.
The most successful use of AT is the result of a process of ongoing evaluation, adjustments, and modifications with decisions made by a collaborative team approach. At The Bridge School, anyone who has the potential to contribute to the decision-making or implementation process can be invited to participate with the team including family members, outside therapists, and AT vendors. Our classroom teams carefully plan for when and how a student will use a given AT device or technique.
During the process of AT evaluation and implementation, the demands of learning to use the technology and learning how to learn with AT are systematically layered and balanced across learning and attentional demands of various curricular activities. This approach allows our staff to provide opportunities for our students to practice new AT skills with support while allowing our students to focus on academic content and social interactions at hand. For example, we consider the demands of each activity when determining AT for seating, positioning, and mobility.
Some activities, such as morning meeting or writing are most accessible to our students when they are positioned in an appropriate supported seating system. When students are well seated and positioned, we are able to systematically build accessible workstations, mount communication devices, alternate keyboards, and evaluate customized switch arrays to support participation during large and small group instruction. However, activities such as recess, sports, free-play, and music often are more accessible while a student is positioned in an upright, hands-free mobility device. When positioned in these mobility devices, participation demands require much different AT solutions. Light-weight, portable and more durable technologies along with no tech solutions may be needed instead of heavier complex devices that must be mounted on a student’s wheelchair and accessed from a very stable seated position.
The range of assistive technologies routinely required by Bridge School students address needs in the areas of communication, computer access, seating, positioning and mobility, mounting equipment, and electronic aids for daily living (EADL).
Mobility Matters, Imbedding Hands-free Locomotion Experiences into the Preschool and Elementary Curricula for Students with Severe Speech and Motor Impairment: The Bridge School Experience by Christine Wright-Ott [PDF, 4.71MB]