Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Assistive Technology Curriculum Structure and Content in Professional Preparation Service Provider Training Programs

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Assistive Technology Curriculum Structure and Content in Professional Preparation Service Provider Training Programs

Article excerpt

Assistive technology (AT) and AT services enable children and youth with disabilities and special health care needs to participate in society and are increasingly a part of service provider practice. It is not clear how professional preparation programs are meeting the challenge of preparing service providers to provide AT/AT services. An electronic survey was sent to the program directors for occupational therapy, physical therapy, special education, and speech-language pathology programs in the United States (n = 959) to determine the extent to which AT/AT services were included in the curriculum. The results (n = 153) showed that nearly all of the programs that responded covered AT/AT services in their curriculum, used similar types of faculty and teaching method patterns, and were generally satisfied with the amount of time they spent on the subject. The programs differed, however, in terms of the time spent and emphasis of content specific to their program type. Gaps existed in the extent to which programs covered the influence of culture on the use of AT and addressing the requirement to discuss AT/AT services at every Individualized Education Program meeting. These gaps and emphasis on specific topics within program types indicate that service providers may leave programs with a narrow scope of knowledge about AT/AT services. Information from this survey suggests that to promote contemporary practice in the areas of AT/AT services, entry-level curricula should be enriched or expanded to comprehensively present AT information instruction in this growing service area. J Allied Health 2007;36:183-192.

ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY (AT) and AT services that enable people with disabilities to participate in society are increasingly a part of service provider practice. Professional preparation programs in the United States structure their courses and practice experiences to prepare students to meet the credential requirements to enter their profession. It is not clear, however, how the professional preparation programs are meeting the challenge of preparing service providers such as those in occupational therapy (OT), physical therapy (PT), special education (SE), and speechlanguage pathology (SLP) to competently provide AT services. This article reports on the AT/AT services component of a study that examined the curriculum structure and content in professional preparation service provider programs in the United States in the area of AT and telehealth, particularly as it relates to children and youth with disabilities and special health care needs.

Federal Legislation

Legal mandates in the United States define AT and AT services for all individuals with disabilities. The Assistive Technology Act of 2004' defines assistive technology as any product that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. AT services are the services and necessary supports to determine the most appropriate technology needed by an individual and to instruct in the use and maintenance of the technology. The act also establishes support and technical assistance centers for AT in each of the states to promote use and access to AT. The use of AT has been shown to improve the quality of life of children with disabilities and increase their access to school and community activities.2"4 In recognition of the benefits of AT for children with disabilities and special health care needs, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act specifically promotes the increased use of and access to AT by requiring that the teams planning for Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs) consider the use of AT to meet the outcomes, goals, and objectives as outlined in part B and part C of the legislation.5

Despite the legal mandates and value of AT for children and youth with disabilities and special health care needs, these interventions often remain underutilized and poorly integrated into IEPs and IFSPs. …

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