Friday, July 10, 2009

Thinking about AT Consideration and Implementation

I was in a meeting the other day and a colleague of mine had shared something that she had heard a teacher say.  "I don't want to write down that the student needs AT - its available in my class.  If I write it down, then I will have to do one of those forms!"  Let me pause to explain something here - The district...about a year or so back...had implemented the use of an AT Implementation Plan 'form' within their IEP software.  The idea behind the implementation plan was to document a number and help teams plan for a number of things including -
  • Training - who needed training and on what specifically did each party need to be trained and in what time frame
  • Location - where was the item to be used and how would it be stored or transitioned from location to location
  • Programming/Customization - who would be responsible for 'tweaking' the AT to meet the student's individual needs and what type of 'tweaking' needed to occur
  • Maintenance Plan - document routine maintenance (e.g., charging) and how other incidental maintanance would occur
  • Contingency Planning - a plan should the AT ever fail so that the student's needs were being met
This plan is done annually as part of the annual review process.  Now, I firmly believe, and policy and the literature would support, that these types of things need to be considered, documented and followed as part of the provision and implementation of AT.  However, as I began talking with other teachers, I started noticing some commonalities in their thinking.  Of course, as one may have guessed, the idea of doing additional paperwork was not received well by many of the teachers.  Even so, the teachers felt this was a necessary part of the process to ensure the bases were covered.  The notion that I found more interesting related to the 'Annual Review'.  Going back to undergrad, and even grad school, it was drilled into my head that an IEP needed to be reviewed at least annually.  However, as many of the teachers with whom I spoke also noted, the pragmatic interpretation of this is 'the IEP must be reviewed annually - leaving out the 'at least' portion of the requirement. 

This begged the question for me,
If teachers were only revieiwing the IEP annually, is this frequency at which they were also thinking about AT? 
When I started speaking to the teacher and asking thsi question, the answer was 'yes'.  Now, let me qualify that a bit.  Many of the teachers did focus on AT throughout the year - the AT that was already within the student's IEP. In other words, they implemented the IEP including any AT provisions that were documented within.   However, they reported really only thinking about AT more critically as part of the annual review because this is when they are required to do so.  My follow up questions was, What happens to the AT if it is not proving to be effective?  A number reported that they 'wait' until the next annual review to make changes to the AT.  Some of the teachers reported trying out different tools that they had available in their classrooms and even, in some instances, begain using the tools en lieu of the non-effective AT on the IEP but never went back to update the IEP. Several of these teacher reported never listing these tools on the IEP because the tools had not gone through the AT Consideration Process.  The teachers explained that in thier districts, there was a defined process that they had to go through as part of the AT Consideration process.   Most of the teachers described some variation of the SETT Framework, though it was treated more as a SETT process.  Some of the teachers had different 'pathways' to 'getting AT' for their students.  For these teachers, common AT or AT readily available in their school district could be accessed through a specific individual.  More expensive AT or less available AT had a more extensive process of meetings and discussions.  Regardless of the situation, many of the teachers reported that these processes and pathways were strongly associated with the annual review and served as 'gateways' to getting AT.

It strikes me that, for these teachers, AT is something that must be considered, where the consideration of AT is associated with some protocol and is prompted by the annual review process.  I worry that, in the best of intentions, schools have created a beaurocracy out of the acquisition and implmentation of AT.   Teachers - good teachers - make hundreds, if not thousands, of instructional decisions every day to help faciliate student success in the classroom.  Teachers envoke the use of a number of strategies to help move a student from point A in their learning to Point B.  They draw upon their pedagogical knowledge and the tools they have readily available to them to help students achieve. I wonder the extent to which teachers feel empowered to consider and implement AT at the same frequency that they use so many other techniques and tools in their classroom or does the mandate to use a formal protocol (either real or perceived) get in the way?

1 comment:

Daniel said...

Your thoughts affirm the struggle I've been having between the need to have a district-wide process to facilitate consistency of service quality and the need to keep the whole thing simple so that the "AT process" doesn't become just one more barrier to success. I worked on melding the SETT framework with the the problem-solving cycle that is now prominent as part of RTI because, with the problem-solving circle, there is such a strong visual indication that you just keep on going around trying interventions until you get the results you want. Your thoughts in this blog entry remind me to stay flexible with the whole "process" so that finding solutions (any kind) does become part of educating instead of a once-a-year hurdle to get past.