AT for Infants/Toddlers
AT for Preschool
The SEEDS workgroup on Early Education Technology (SWEET) supports Assistive Technology (AT), including Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), for young children with disabilities and their families. The implementation of AT and AAC includes both high technology and low technology opportunities for young children as vehicles to enhance access to communication and learning in natural environments. Technology applications for young children and their families are effective tools that enrich learning environments. Further, early opportunities for technology can provide a gateway for children with disabilities to experiences that they may not have adequate access to due to their inability to connect with the environment through typical sensory/physical ways. The principles that SWEET espouses include:
- Focus on family involvement in all aspects of the formulating and employing the use of assistive technology devices, both high and low technology (Parette, Howard & Brotherson, 1996).
- The participation of the families in the use of assistive technology devices are in the child's daily routines taking place in the home and child care settings (Dugan, Millbourne, Campbell, & Wilcox, 2004; Judge, 2002; Mistrett, 2001; Stremel, 2005).
- The tools must be user friendly and easily adapted to the environments of the child and family.
- Families are able to access the devices readily from providers, a lending library, and/or information sheets that are accessible and provide simple directions on using the equipment or activity.
- Assistive technology assessment and intervention is addressed in a team-based collaborative manner with the family as an integral member of the decision-making team (Judge, 2002; Long, 2003; Mistrett, 2004).
- AT (to include AAC) is a consideration for every child during the development of the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)/Individualized Education Program (IEP)(Stremel, 2005).
- AT is a strategy to foster learning and independence (Long, 2003; Sullivan & Lewis, 1995).
SWEET recognizes the DEC Recommended Practices on Technology Applications and promotes best practice when considering the use of AT for young children and their families. The following headings organize the DEC Recommended Practices on Technology Applications (Sandall, et al, 2005) and provide a guide for the development of the SWEET resources on AT:
- Professionals utilize AT in intervention programs for children
- Families and professionals collaborate in planning and implementing the use of AT
- Families and professionals use technology to access information and support
- Training and technical support programs are available to support technology applications
Additionally, the DEC Recommended Practices on Technology Applications focus on the following child-focused and family-focused results that SWEET adheres to in the development of their training modules:
- Enhancing the development across all domains
- Increasing independence and access
- Enhancing individualized child and family interaction/instruction
- Supporting professionals and families to ensure successful use of technology
- Increasing family and professional access to information and networking
The primary purpose of the SEEDS website on AT is to help providers access up to date information, links, materials, and training modules on how to use AT with infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. The group recognizes the issues with underutilization of AT for young children due to lack of knowledge about its use by parents and providers as well as limited opportunities for providers to access training to increase their background and skills in incorporating AT strategies in the individualized educational plans of very young children who may benefit from AT support (Sawyer, Milbourne, Dugan, & Campbell, 2005). Studies have demonstrated that young children's learning and development can be enhanced by the use of AT as a vehicle for accessing activities in their natural environments (Langone, Malone, & Kinsley, 1999; Mistrett, 2001; Sullivan & Lewis, 1995). The AT website will increase the knowledge base of parents and providers concerning AT use with very young children and provide training opportunities that will offer them ways to provide AT for infants and toddlers from a best practice perspective highlighted in the current AT literature and research.