Find out how Cotting Consulting helps find the best assistive technology solutions for students

By Tim Richmond, Director of Cotting Consulting


“What happens during an assistive technology evaluation?”

“What will this process look like?”

These are two of the most common questions I get asked by parents and clinicians. Before I answer, let’s take a step back for a minute and quickly explore assistive technology (AT) and the referral process.

What Exactly Is Assistive Technology (AT)? 

Communication therapist Ms. Plante works with a student at Cotting School.

AT is any item, piece of equipment, software program or product system that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities. It can be as low tech as a communication board or as high tech as a dedicated computer or device used with specialized apps. AT products can be made by hand, purchased off the shelf or adapted from an existing product.

The Referral Process

A school district or parent may request that their student receive an AT or AAC (augmentative alternative communication) evaluation to identify the best tools and solutions that are specific to that student. Many districts use their own skilled staff to provide general accommodations for students prior to triggering a full AT evaluation. If they don’t have the capacity to provide such services, they may call in an outside expert, like Cotting Consulting, to evaluate and consult with teams and students.

The Evaluation

The evaluation should occur in the student’s natural environment, typically in the school setting, in order to observe the skills and tasks that might be challenging to them. It’s important that, as clinicians, we look at the student’s strengths and areas of weakness to develop a picture of the whole child.

After receiving background information on the student, such as their current individualized education program (IEP) and recent reports from speech and language pathology (SLP), occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT), we connect with the student’s team to understand the challenges the student is currently facing. During this process, we interview key stakeholders, including parents. We also typically observe the student in a classroom setting, and then work with them to informally or formally assess their skills related to access, communication, reading and writing, executive function and the motor skills needed to effectively use various forms of low and high tech.

It’s important to remember that our aim as clinicians is to find the best solutions for students in their natural environment. We differentiate between evaluations that are more focused on one area of assistive technology, such as writing, executive functioning or reading, and the evaluations that are considered more complex, like augmentative and alternative communication. Evaluations may take one session or be completed over several sessions, depending on the student’s ability to attend to the tasks presented.

Examples of high tech and low tech assistive technology for communication purposes.

Reporting and the IEP

After the evaluation, we provide a full report and write up to the district and family to review at the student’s team meeting. It includes recommendations regarding any specific AT tools, devices and strategies that might benefit the student.

In many cases, we provide follow up consultation services to the student and team around the use of these tools. The student’s team usually finds these recommendations helpful to develop the best programming for the student, and will learn the next steps for providing continued support around the student’s use of assistive technology.

How We Can Help

If your student has completed other evaluations along their educational journey, an AT evaluation can feel similar in the manner of testing and reporting to other related service providers, such as PT, OT and SLP. Knowing what to expect can make a new process feel more comforting, especially when you learn valuable information about a student’s learning profile.

And, remember, you don’t have to go it alone. Cotting Consulting is here to help you along the way, so please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have.

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