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TAP Bulletin - July 2000


UPDATE ON THE USE OF ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY AMONG INFANTS AND TODDLERS

The use of assistive technology devices and services among infants and toddlers continues to grow, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Education. The data show that 13,525 children, ages birth to 2, received assistive technology devices and services in 1996. This represents a 45% increase from the number of young children served in 1995.

Since 1992, the Department of Education has kept track of the number of very young children who receive services under Part C (formerly Part H) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These services include assistive technology devices and services, as well as occupational therapy, physical therapy, nutrition services, medical services, and speech-language pathology services.

Table 1 shows the increase in the number of infants and toddlers receiving AT devices and services since 1992, when schools started collecting this information.

Table 1. Number of Infants and Toddlers Receiving Assistive Technology Devices and Services, 1992-1996

Year

Birth to 2 Population Receiving Any Early Intervention Services

Birth to 2 Population Receiving AT Devices and Services

1992

143,392

5,861

1993

154,065

6,678

1994

165,253

7,352

1995

177,734

9,274

1996

187,348

13,525

A state-by-state breakdown (including U.S. territories) of the numbers of infants and toddlers receiving AT devices and services is found in Table 2.

Data collected since 1994 have become more comprehensive. For example,

  • All states now are required to conduct activities under Part C and to collect data on these services;
  • Sources of data have become more reliable, with fewer duplicated counts; and
  • States are able to collect more information on the services that are delivered. Initially some states did not capture counts for assistive technology devices and services, or only were able to capture some of the services provided, but now the states are able to do this.

Some states have indicated that their data collection is continuing to evolve. In some states, improvements in aspects of data collection have affected a state’s numbers. For example, Florida reported that "the increase in the number of children who received assistive technology services and devices was due to better reporting of services and not to actual increases in services" (U.S. Department of Education, 1999).

Colorado reported that the changes in the "number of children who received various services was a result of the shift in data sources from state sources to locally generated summary data and the decision to classify more services in the Other category" (U.S. Department of Education, 1999).

Georgia reported that "the increase in the number of children who received assistive technology services was due to increased use of new protocols and awareness of policies by service providers" (U.S. Department of Education, 1999).

Success of AT Act Projects

State AT Act Projects are working to increase the number of children who are receiving AT. There is some indication that AT Act Projects have had an impact on the increased number of young children receiving AT. Several examples are provided below.

North Carolina. North Carolina attributes the 977% increase in the number of young children receiving AT devices and services over the last year to the tremendous support early intervention receives in the state.

The North Carolina Assistive Technology Program (NCATP) is quite involved with the Division of Public Health (DPH), the agency responsible for assistive technology services for infants and toddlers. A staff member from the NCATP sits on the AT Birth to Five Advisory Board, thus helping with policy issues and practice decisions. Seven regional AT resource centers (ATRCs) are located throughout the state. All centers focus on AT services for children ages birth to 5, which includes infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. NCATP provided technical assistance to the centers in the start-up year under a contract from DPH, and currently operates one of the seven ATRCs under contract with DPH.

The NCATP and the DPH jointly funded an on-line statewide equipment loan network. In 1992, NCATP supported the DPH’s successful effort to gain state dollars to provide funds for the purchase of AT for infants and toddlers with special needs, and to increase AT services to families and professionals working with very young children. In 1992, the General Assembly of North Carolina appropriated $250,000 to the DPH to purchase equipment for infants and toddlers with special needs. In November 1992, the DPH received an additional one-time funding of $700,000 from Part H funds secured from the Infant-Toddler Program to increase AT services for infants and toddlers. At that time the Advisory Board recommended that those funds be used to develop a network of assistive technology resource centers to provide equipment loans and additional training, technical assistance, and consultation to

assist professionals and families in the use of AT devices. Additional funds were appropriated by the General Assembly in subsequent years to support the ATRCs. Thus, North Carolina purchased AT devices for infants and toddlers, which were included in the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). The state also offered a network of centers that loaned AT devices for infants and toddlers for short time periods to enable the young children to "try out" equipment prior to purchase.

In addition, the DPH used Title V Funds from the Children's Special Health Services Program to supplement funding for infants and toddlers who qualified financially for AT services. As a result of these initiatives, many more infants and toddlers in North Carolina were able to receive AT services in 1996 than in previous years.

Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico Assistive Technology Project experienced a 160% increase in the number of children who received AT devices and services under IDEA from 1995 to 1996. This was part of a concerted effort by the Puerto Rico Project to impact the Early Intervention Program in the Department of Health. The Project worked for more than 1.5 years to change a law for special education services. This change made special education service delivery more effective by clarifying lines of authority as well as by providing fiscal autonomy to purchase AT equipment. The Puerto Rico Project also was instrumental in developing regional AT resource centers to operate toy lending libraries. These lending programs are an important resource for parents. The lending programs also serve professionals who can use the equipment in the evaluation process of infants and toddlers.

New Mexico. New Mexico reported a 455% increase in the number of AT devices and services provided to infants and toddlers from 1995 to 1996. The New Mexico Technology Assistance (NMTA) Program worked out an agreement with the state’s Developmental Disabilities Division in the Department of Health to transfer the authority and funding of AT for children, ages birth to 3, from the Developmental Disabilities Division to the NMTA

Program. The agreement also expanded the NMTA Program's equipment loan project to the 17 early childhood centers.

Summary

Infants and toddlers continue to benefit from assistive technology services. States are working to increase their services to this group of children, often with the aid of state assistive technology programs. In a few states, either policy changes in departments that provide assistive technology services or support from the states’ legislatures, or both, have helped expand and improve children’s access to assistive technology. Modifications in a few states’ data collection methods explain some changes, both positive and negative, in the reported number of young children receiving AT devices and services.

References

RESNA Technical Assistance Project. (1999, February). Use of assistive technology increases among infants and toddlers. TAP Bulletin. Arlington, VA: Author.

U.S. Department of Education. (1995). Seventeenth annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Author.

U.S. Department of Education. (1996). Eighteenth annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Author.

U.S. Department of Education. (1997). Nineteenth annual report to Congress on the implementation of

the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Author.

U.S. Department of Education. (1998). Twentieth annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Author.

U.S. Department of Education.(1999). Twenty-first annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Washington, DC: Author.

View Table 2

This report is available upon request in alternative formats. For information, contact 703/524-6686 (Voice), 703/524-6639 (TDD)

The RESNA Technical Assistance Project, Grant #H224B020001, is an activity funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), U.S. Department of Education (ED), under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998. The information contained herein does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of NIDRR/ED or RESNA and no official endorsement of the materials should be inferred.

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The National Assistive Technology Technical Assistance Partnership is a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Department of Education and RESNA. The grant (Grant #H224B050003; CFDA 84.224B) is funded under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, as amended and administered by the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education.

This website is developed with grant funds. The information contained on these pages does not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the U.S. Department of Education or the Grantee and no official endorsement of the information should be inferred.