OCALI NOW | Issue 25 • February 2021

Baked Into the Process: Advancing Equitable Outcomes Through the Lens of Social Justice

What is social justice? What does it mean for education and for educators? Why is it important to promote equitable outcomes for students? And how do we infuse socially-just practices into school-based services that promote equitable and positive outcomes for young people?

These are some of the questions that Dr. Charles Barrett explores in the first episode of Rewind, a new Inspiring Change podcast series that features conversations and connections from OCALICON—OCALI’s premier autism and disabilities conference. Rewind is the audio showcase of some of OCALICON’s best moments – starting with Dr. Barrett’s 2020 presentation.

Dr. Barrett is a nationally-certified school psychologist, as well as a writer, musician and teacher from Northern Virginia. He’s a passionate educator, committed to meeting people where they are, and understanding, serving, and supporting the individual needs of children and families.

His work is anchored by a focus on justice and equity, which represents his unwavering commitment to advocating for populations that have been marginalized by systemic oppression. In this episode, Dr. Barrett helps define and describe the framework of social justice, including why it’s important and how we do it.

“Social justice is a lens that really informs how we think about students in many ways,” shares Barrett. “It’s a systemic framing. Social justice is not a condiment. It’s not ketchup or mayonnaise or pepper or salt that we sprinkle onto something after it’s already made or after it’s been prepared. Social justice is really a central ingredient that’s baked into the process. It’s our thinking that informs what we do and how we do it.

Follow Dr. Barrett | Twitter: @_charlesbarrett | Instagram: @charlesabarrett

InspirED Video Gallery

Text of Blog Post is the Full Video Transcript
CC Version: https://youtu.be/ij8aVKzKgI0
Video with Audio Description Coming Soon!

Each week, the InspirED Virtual Learning Series Zoomcast brings you strategies, resources, and practical advice to help navigate this unique time in learning.

But…maybe 4 p.m. on Thursday, doesn’t always exactly work for you.

Take a breath! Don’t worry…We’ve got you covered!

The InspirEd Video Gallery features all of the previous sessions on-demand, and it’s updated weekly so you can access the series when it’s convenient for you!

Catch up on sessions you may have missed. Share in the learning by rewatching sessions with co-workers or family. Access resources specific to each topic. And earn professional development credit.

It’s all in the InspirED video gallery at ocali.org. And the best part is…you’re in control!

Now, doesn’t that feel good?

Be informed. Be empowered. Be InspirED!

Assistive Technology: Matching a Person’s Needs with AT Features

logo for Assistive Technology and Accessible Educational Materials Center at OCALI

According to the World Health Organization, assistive technology (AT) is defined as products whose “primary purpose is to maintain or improve an individual’s functioning and independence to facilitate participation and to enhance overall well-being. They can also help prevent impairments and secondary health conditions.”

The Assistive Technology Act of 2004 describes an AT device as “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” The Tech Act also describes an AT service as “any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in selection, acquisition or use of an assistive technology device.”

Given the goal of increased independence for people with developmental disabilities and the demonstrated impact that assistive technology solutions can have on facilitating that independence, it is important for persons with disabilities, families, service coordinators, and others to have a basic understanding of and an appreciation for the use of AT and other accommodation solutions. 

The AT Continuum
It is important to keep in mind that AT is not concerned with the remediation of a disability, but with overcoming access and performance barriers in ways that help people with disabilities complete desired tasks. Self-help, employment, socialization, inclusion, and community living can be made more accessible using AT.

Without technology that promotes access, connectivity, and community participation, people with developmental disabilities may not be able to receive services in the same way as people without disabilities. Because AT is used to overcome barriers to participation, AT devices are not categorized by disability type, but by the task and functional capabilities that are supported. It should be noted that some AT devices are simple and readily available in the marketplace. Others are more complicated and require electricity, electronics, and other technology supports.

Person-centered Planning
When person-centered planning is used to develop an individual’s adult’s Individual Service Plan (ISP), the information collected can be directly applied to AT assessments. ISPs identify an person’s adult’s goals and next-steps, and these can be applied to finding AT to help the individual accomplish them. Any AT assessment consists of four basic steps: 

  1. Frame the question to ask, “What, specifically, does the person want to do?”
  2. Clarify strengths and obstacles to accomplishing this goal or activity.
  3. Generate solutions and try AT tools and strategies. 
  4. Select and document the AT tool/system in an ISP.

Person-centered planning can guide a team as they begin to explore ways that AT can help an individual accomplish ISP goals.

A Framework to Guide the AT Assessment Process
Once an individual and their support team have set goals for increased independence and/or reduced support in a specific area, they will also begin to look more deeply into the person’s strengths and barriers related to this area. One commonly used strategy for guiding a team’s AT discussions related to a person’s use of AT, is the use of the SETT Framework.

The SETT Framework is based on the idea that, in order to identify an appropriate system of AT devices and strategies needed for a person to make progress toward goals, collaborative teams that include the person, family or caregivers, and selected professionals must first develop a shared understanding of the individual’s strengths and barriers. This understanding includes the customary environments in which the person will participate and the tasks that the person needs to be able to do, or learn to do, more independently and with less support. 

SETT was originally developed for AT processes in schools and it is an acronym for Student, Environments, Tasks, and Tools. Since it was developed, the ideas and principles of the SETT Framework have been used in a wide variety of other settings. SETT can easily be used during AT discussions by ISP teams for adults. When SETT is used in this way, the S represents Self instead of Student. The questioning approach inherent in using the SETT Framework provides a starting point for helpful conversations about AT devices and services.

Importance of a Clearly Defined Process
Using SETT (or a similar framework) as a guide for discussions about AT can be important for the eventual integration of AT into a person’s life. A clearly defined process can keep the team from going off on tangents exploring possible AT solutions that do not fit the reality of the person’s needs, abilities, or environment. It can counteract the tendency to start working on misidentified problems based on unconfirmed assumptions about the person’s skills or abilities. It can help the team remain focused and stay on track. Using a systematic approach based on effective communication strategies can be reassuring to the person, the support team, and advocates. 

Although everyone who participates on an ISP/support team is an advocate for the person’s progress, there are often varied opinions on how to support that progress. Multiple perspectives are vital, but the use of a structure or framework to help guide discussions and develop consensus can be valuable during an AT assessment.

New Modules to Support the Assessment Process and Independent Living
The Assistive Technology & Accessible Educational Materials (AT&AEM) Center at OCALI recently launched a series of Assistive Technology Internet Modules (ATIM) to support the assessment process and independent living for adults. These free modules, along with many others, guide users through case studies, instructional videos, pre- and post-assessments, and more. Fee-based professional development certificates and graduate credit hours are available. Check out these new modules designed for adults, along with the complete module list:

  • AT Assessment Strategies for Adults: Part I
  • AT Assessment Strategies for Adults: Part II
  • AAC Assessment: Adults with DD
  • Assistive and Smart Home Technology for Independent Living

Matching a Person’s Needs with AT Features
An important part of the AT assessment process is matching a person’s needs with AT features. SIFTS is a quick and easy web-based survey tool developed to support decision-making teams who need assistance in matching a person’s needs and strengths to AT features. Questions about a person’s needs and abilities are presented and the answers provided lead to suggestions of specific AT features for the identified domain. The list of AT features has embedded text, picture, and video supports to assist teams in building their knowledge of AT, as well as their capacity to implement AT assessments.

To learn more about assistive technology and supporting resources, visit https://ataem.org/.

What’s New at OCALI

The Journey Webinar Series: 2021 Dates
To support County Boards of Developmental Disabilities in helping youth with complex needs and their families navigate the journey to from school to adult life, the Lifespan Transitions Center at OCALI has created a free webinar series, called The Journey, designed to support topics, such as:

  • Creating structure,
  • Improving self-determination,
  • Planning for transition, and
  • Supporting literacy. 

Visit the archive of previously aired webinars and register for upcoming sessions.

New Adult Domains Added to SIFTS
The AT&AEM Center at OCALI recently launched a series of SIFTS specifically for adults in need of assistive technology (AT). SIFTS is a web-based tool designed to guide AT decision-making teams in matching a person’s needs with AT features. From children to adults, SIFTS can be used by parents, students, consumers, and professionals serving people with disabilities. Explore SIFTS and check out our first adult domains around Communication and Physical Access surveys at https://sifts.ocali.org/. Watch for more adults SIFTS to come.

Updates from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities