Although IDEA is the law, the reality of its implementation by states and local districts is controlled by the way we interpret its mandate...For example, what do increase, maintain and improve mean?
• Does it mean we are “obligated” to provide tools for students to access to curriculum?
• Does it mean we are “obligated” to help them develop the skills they need to access curriculum?
• Does it mean we are “obligated” to change existing school curriculum so that it is made accessible?
• Does it mean we are “obligated” to provide the most sophisticated technologies available?
• Does it mean we are “obligated” to provide opportunities for mastery of the tools before students are graded?
• Does it mean we are “obligated” to provide interpretation of their achievements in relation to their peers?
“Obligated” means the student’s best interests come first and are protected by law; it does not mean that educators should feel they are being pressured to accommodate, but should instead remind them of their commitment to educate.
Sometimes in the education field we lose our way. Administrators are concerned with their financial obligation to taxpayers versus their commitment to proper materials to educate students; school psychologists struggle in their reports trying to detail a child’s observable challenges versus their desire to offer interpretative insights into the child’s learning potential; teachers struggle with research that promotes the differentiation and individuation of their lessons versus the dictates of state-mandated lessons and testing; and even para-professionals struggle with the expectations that they protect and physically support students versus their own common-sense to empower and strengthen the child’s independence.
With these many self-imposed restrictions on the field of education, we often lose sight of our central mission: helping children become lifelong learners.
Assistive Technologies were developed to address the inequities and inaccessibility of typical curriculum in our schools and provide a more universal availability of learning opportunities for children (Universal Design for Learning).