Professional Credentialing and Assistive Technology

By Lange, Michelle L. | The Exceptional Parent, November 2000 | Go to article overview

Professional Credentialing and Assistive Technology


Lange, Michelle L., The Exceptional Parent


What Parents Need to Know

When I bring my car in for repairs, I assume the mechanic has the training to do the job right An incorrect assumption may lead to a lot of wasted time and money! When your child needs assistive technology services and equipment, you want the best. But how can you be assured that you are getting qualified help?

Assistive technology services and equipment are provided by a wide variety of people with an even wider variety of educational backgrounds and experience. I have known wheelchair suppliers whose only previous work experience was at the local fast food restaurant before they began telling consumers that they provide seating evaluations! So how do you know who was flipping hamburgers two weeks ago and who is a leader in their field? Assistive Technology Credentials can help.

What is an Assistive Technology Credential?

The Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) has developed the only credential program for service providers in the area of assistive technology. Two separate certifications are offered: Assistive Technology Practioner (ATP) and Assistive Technology Supplier (ATS). ATPs generally provide assistive technology evaluation, training, and education. ATPs often have a background in occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech-language pathology, engineering, or education. Assistive Technology Suppliers are suppliers who are involved in the sale and service of commercially available assistive technology equipment.

The areas of assistive technology addressed in the RESNA program include: positioning, wheeled mobility, computer access, work-site accommodation, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), and electronic aids to daily living (EADLs)--also known as environmental controls). The examination focuses on appropriate evaluation, training, implementation, service delivery, and ethics.

Several other organizations offer assistive technology courses that provide a certificate of completion. This is very different than the RESNA credentialing process. To earn the RESNA credential, the applicant must meet minimum eligibility requirements (education and experience) to qualify to sit for a written examination. The applicant must then sit for a comprehensive examination. Upon passing this exam, the applicant must agree to abide by the standard of practice, to which all credentialed service providers are held accountable. The candidate is then granted the ATP or ATS credential and may then use these initials after his or her name.

Those people who have passed both examinations are dual certified as both an ATP and an ATS. The ATP or ATS must also meet continuing education requirements to be re-certified, to ensure continued competence. RESNA is currently developing a certification program in rehabilitation engineering and rehabilitation engineering technology. The first exam will be administered in 2001. The cost of the examination is $500. The various courses that provide continuing education units towards re-certification range from flee to several hundred dollars. Finally, being re-certified costs an additional $75.

Why should I seek an ATP or ATS to help me with assistive technology?

The certification is designed to increase consumer satisfaction and provide a consumer safeguard. This is particularly important in the area of assistive technology, since the educational backgrounds and level of experience vary so much between both providers and suppliers. While working with an ATP or ATS does not guarantee satisfaction, certification demonstrates the service provider's commitment to the field and baseline foundation knowledge. Just as a certified master plumber is not guaranteed to unclog your drain, he or she should be more competent than your uncle Harry.

Jimmy(*) is 13 years old and has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. He went to a physical therapist at a local clinic to be evaluated for power mobility, as he was no longer able to push his manual wheelchair by himself The therapist recommended a scooter. …

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