Growing Your AT Toolbox

Feature Matching

Feature matching was briefly discussed with the SETT framework in a previous stop. 

Feature matching is “the formal & informal process in which the attributes of Assistive Technology that are needed & desired are determined.” (Fonner & Behnke, 2018). No tool is a “one size fits all;” the effectiveness of a tool largely depends on the learner, their environment(s), and the tasks required. Not only does the tool need to be useful to the learner, it needs to be accepted by this individual as well. By matching the features of the tool to the needs of the learner, a more effective outcome is anticipated. 

Each AT tool can be described by its features, such as: 

  • High tech vs low tech

  • Access (e.g., direct selection, scanning, eye gaze)

  • Physical attributes (e.g., weight, size)

  • Text-to-speech

  • Word prediction

The attachments with this section include examples of generic feature matching. More examples of feature matching for specific disabilities can be found in the sections below.  

Tools that Support Communication

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is a term used to describe the tools that individuals with complex communication needs use to express their wants, needs, and ideas. AAC is augmentative when it is used to supplement existing speech and alternative when it is used in place of speech that is absent or not functional.

AAC uses a variety of techniques and tools, including:

  • Alphabet/letter board, core board

  • Communication book

  • Tangible objects

  • Manual signs, gestures, or finger spelling

  • Speech Generating Device (SGD)

Watch this video to learn more about AT tools that can support communication at every stage of language development.

Tools that Support Executive Functioning

Executive functioning is a set of mental processes that helps connect past experience with present action. We use our executive functioning skills to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention, remembering details, and managing time and space (National Center for Learning Disabilities). Learners who have difficulty in these areas can utilize assistive technology (AT) tools to improve their habits and skills.

Examples of tools that support executive functioning include: 

  • Calendars or planners

  • Visual schedules

  • Graphic organizers

  • Alarms, timers, watches

  • Digital recorders, Livescribe pens

Watch this video to learn more about these tools.

Tools that Support Academics (Reading, Writing, Math)

Assistive technology assists learners access the curriculum, such as reading, writing, and math lessons.

Examples of AT tools that support reading and writing include: 

  • Text-to-Speech (TTS)

  • Audiobooks and digital TTS books

  • Optical character recognition

  • Handwriting tools

  • Keyboards and touchscreens

  • Dictation (speech to text)

  • Word prediction

  • Graphic organizers

Examples of AT tools that support math include: 

  • Calculators

  • Graph or lined paper

  • Manipulatives

  • Drawing tools

  • Graphing tools

  • Equation-solving tools

Watch this video to learn more about how these tools can assist learners with their reading, writing, and math skills.

Tools that Support Seating, Positioning, and Mobility

Seating and positioning refer to the way a learner is placed in his/her environment using typical (ex: chair) or special positioning equipment (ex: wedge). Positioning equipment can be used to help learners who have difficulty supporting themselves in positions such as sitting, standing, or lying down. 

Mobility refers to a learner’s ability to move through their environment. All learners have some desire to move, but they may find it to be challenging. Mobility also assists learners in developing their self-awareness and understanding how they have an impact on their surroundings. 

Examples of AT that may assist learners with their seating, position, and mobility include: 

  • Bolsters

  • Strollers

  • Ball chairs

  • Wedges

  • Standing frames

  • Wheelchairs

Watch this video to learn more about how AT assists learners with their seating, positioning, and mobility needs.

Tools that Support Vision and Hearing

Learners who are blind or visually impaired can use AT to access their world. Examples of AT for blind or visually impaired individuals include:

  • Glasses

  • Large print books

  • Screen readers and magnifiers

  • Video magnifiers

  • Braille watches

  • Braille printers

  • Service dogs 

Many forms of AT for deaf or hard of hearing individuals are designed to overcome distance and background noise. Examples of AT for these learners include: 

  • FM system

  • Hearing aids 

  • Amplification system

  • Visual alert system

  • Captioning

The Michigan Department of Education - Low Incidence Outreach (MDE-LIO) has additional resources for supporting learners who are blind, visually impaired, Deaf, or hard of hearing on their website. In addition, MDE-LIO recently released the Michigan Assistive Technology Guidelines for Teachers of Students Who Are Blind and Visually Impaired, which is intended to guide teachers of learners who are Blind or Visually Impaired (BVI) in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 with assistive technology.

Watch this video to learn more about how AT can support learners who are Blind, Visually Impaired, Deaf, or Hard of Hearing.

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