Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Technology Use at Home

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Technology Use at Home

Article excerpt

If you have tried to obtain technology to help your child, you may have been frustrated by the lack of adequate assistance and information. You may have needed to learn about computer hardware and software or assistive devices. Even if already technologically competent, you may have felt the need for on-going consultation with someone with more expertise about your child's technology-related academic, social, vocational, sensory or physical needs. You may have been confused or overwhelmed by negotiating funding entitlement. You may have invested money in technology that turned out to be incompatible with what was used in school or inappropriate for your child. You may have found that your child's teachers or therapists know less than they should about new technologies, or that they are not communicating with you about how technology is being used in school and how your family can support those efforts at home. You may have found it difficult to find technology resource centers outside of the schools.

If any of these experiences sound familiar, you are not alone. Even parents who have succeeded in providing computer and assistive technologies for their children's use report similar frustrations and experiences.

1988: Public Law 100-407

P.L. 100-407, the "Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988," was enacted to stimulate the use of assistive technology. Technology assistance centers were established with funding from state education departments, foundations and the federal government through this legislation. These centers, along with the Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) centers throughout the country, became valuable resources to many parents. Still, the technology needs of many children remained unmet because of inadequate access to quality assistance, costs involved or insufficient parental knowledge of children's entitlements.

1990: Public Law 101-476

In recognition that many children with disabilities still did not have access to the technology from which they could benefit, the "1990 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)," P.L. 101-476, included mandates to correct these inequities. This new law required that school districts take responsibility for identifying children's technology needs; securing, maintaining and repairing needed devices, and providing the child with services to insure appropriate technology use. According to this law, a child's Individualized Educational Plan (I.E.P.) must include the nature of needed technology support and the kind and amount of support services to be provided in school. Yet, some state education departments have not yet issued regulations for their school districts to enforce the IDEA, and many schools are not in compliance with the Federal requirements.

Parental Survey Results

Past history shows that schools will respond when parents are empowered with enough information about their children's rights to make appropriate demands. Recently, I conducted a national study of the experiences of families who have computer and/or assistive technologies available for home use. The parents in this study were all on the mailing lists of eleven centers affiliated with the Alliance for Technology Access (ATA). Two hundred thirty-four parents responded to a ten-page survey. Parents were asked about sources of information and continuing support, their children's use of technology at home and school, and areas of ongoing need.

This article will review the experiences reported by parents who answered the survey and will provide some suggestions to help build or increase home-school collaboration concerning technology.

* How have parents secured assistance?

Many parents of children with disabilities report that they buy computers and academic software primarily for the educational benefit of their children, particularly for enrichment or remedial work. …

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