The Use of Assistive Technology by Early Interventionists in Virginia




Feist, Cynthia

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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and subsequent amendments mandate that early intervention (EI) services include provision of assistive technology (AT) devices and services. EI services are provided through an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) through which family members and early interventionists collaborate to develop a family-centered plan to support the child’s functional skill development. Although federal laws define EI services to include AT devices and services, data on the inclusion of AT devices and services on the IFSPs of infants and toddlers nationwide in the years 1995 through 2004 found that only 3.07% to 7.41% had AT included on their IFSPs. Furthermore, only 0.7% of children receiving Part C services in Virginia had AT listed as an EI service on their initial IFSP. These statistics are disconcerting and bring into question, why are such a small percentage of children reported to be receiving AT devices and services through their EI programs, and is this an accurate depiction of AT provision by early interventionists? The purpose of this study was to investigate the types of AT that early interventionists in Virginia provide to infants and toddlers and their families who receive Part C EI services, the purposes for which they provide AT, the factors that influence their provision of AT, their perceived knowledge of AT, and their perceived need for additional AT education. Identifying these factors can help in developing strategies to support the provision of AT devices and services to infants and toddlers and their families. Early interventionists who provide Part C services in Virginia completed a web-based survey designed to address these questions. Research findings identified factors which the participants perceived as being barriers to providing AT, areas in which they perceived as having a lack of AT knowledge, and areas in which they perceived needing additional AT education. These areas included AT assessment, types of available AT devices and sources to obtain them, time required for obtaining or providing AT, sources for borrowing AT devices to trial, cost of providing AT, funding sources for AT, care and maintenance of AT devices, and technical support for AT. Limitations of the study and implications for practice and research were identified.



Early intervention, Assistive technology devices, Assistive technology services, Part C services, IFSP, Individualized family service plan