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Assistive Technology Case Studies 

Case Study: John 

John is in tenth grade and has a visual impairment and cerebral palsy. He is attending high school in a one-to-one iPad school district, and his team would like to investigate the effectiveness of him using an iPad as Assistive Technology (AT). This device will provide needed accommodations of his learning materials and provide a digital learning environment for completing his assignments. John’s special education teacher is very excited about him using his iPad and notes how motivated he is to use it. Before John started using the iPad, he would have to wait sometimes more than a week to obtain materials and have his paraprofessional read them to him. John was struggling to keep up with his classwork. His IEP educational team, composed of John’s parents, a general education teacher, a special education teacher, a teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI), and an occupational therapist, gave John the iPad and went over some basic accessibility features. Lastly, team members helped him bookmark his class websites. The team does not have, however, a structured system for AT implementation and instruction for John’s iPad. There are numerous features that would be of benefit to John, such as using the iPad’s text-to-speech feature for importing reading materials each week, but his team is not equipped to set up these features, so it cannot be the used as his primary AT device... Without structured support to become proficient using his iPad as AT, by the end of the year, the team noticed that John seldom chose his iPad for reading and completing assignments. John has given up trying to use his iPad as his AT device, and the IEP team does not know how to help him use it more effectively. The IEP team decided to stop using it, and resorted to pairing John with a one-to-one paraprofessional that reads his texts to him. John now has less independence and confidence and continues to fall farther behind due to how much time he spends waiting for his aide to obtain and read all his academic coursework to him. 



John’s story is not uncommon. There are several issues affecting our students in special education regarding the use of AT services. The thrust of this article, beginning with a review of the relevant literature, is to discuss AT evaluation and implementation and how it is compounded by one-to-one school districts that have rolled out programs giving iPads to all students. This brave new world of one-to-one mobile technology can be truly beneficial to students served by special education but falls apart for these students when IEP teams do not know how to teach them how to use the device. In order to address this issue, we will outline an AT implementation cycle model that can be used for training purposes for students being served in special education. 


Under IDEA, a special educator's role in implementing AT can include: 

  • Should guide and advocate for AT devices on the educational team

  • Conduct appropriate evaluations related to sensory impairments as well as AT evaluations

  • Advise school district officials on the acquisition of AT devices that will meet each student's learning needs or utilize accessibility features on device being used in a one-to-one technology district

  • Guide the individualized education program (IEP) team in creating goals and benchmarks with regard to AT

  • Design and provide all the direct instruction to the student regarding how to use appropriate AT device(s)

  • Provide ongoing assessment and evaluation of the use of the AT device with the educational team and student


Sounds like a big job, huh? NTFE believes educational teams and school districts need help creating assistive technology plans and programs. Please get in touch with NTFE to create an action plan for developing your AT programs for an individual student or for your assistive technology department.  


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