Assistive Technology for Infants and Toddlers

Article excerpt

Infants and toddlers learn by interacting with people and objects around them. Children with special needs may have limitations in mobility that restrict their ability to explore their environment. These limitations can affect a young child's physical, cognitive, social, and emotional growth. Assistive technology (or AT) devices and services can provide them with the necessary tools to access, explore, and experience their environment as other young children do.

The Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act (often referred to as the "Tech Act"), defines an AT device as "... any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the capabilities of individuals with disabilities." The Tech Act further defines an AT service as "... any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device."

The same provision can be found in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Part C (formerly Part H), of the IDEA addresses the provision of special education and related services for infants and toddlers from birth to age three. Part C of the IDEA expands the definition of an AT device to include anything "... that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities." Part C also addresses the initial and continued use of AT for infants and toddlers who are eligible for early intervention services based upon their state's eligibility criteria.

Assistive technology in the IFSP

The Tech Act and Part C of the IDEA provide and authorize AT services in educational programs. These services are designed to meet the developmental needs of each eligible child as well as to meet the family's needs as they relate to the child's development.

The Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) is a written plan for services provided for the child and his or her family in the child's natural environment. Here are some of the AT services that may be found on a child's IFSP:

* Evaluation of the child's AT needs, including a functional evaluation in his or her customary environment.

* Purchase, lease, or acquisition of AT devices for infants and toddlers with disabilities.

* Selection, fitting, customization, adaptation, application, maintenance, repair, or replacement of AT devices.

* Coordination with other therapies, interventions, or services that are also employing AT devices (such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs). …