Back to School with Assistive Technology


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

It’s that time of year again.  Kids are headed back to school with backpacks full of notebooks, pencils, and binders.  In addition to the traditional school supplies, some are headed back with assistive technology (AT) to create an equal learning environment in the classroom.

The Michigan Assistive Technology Program (MATP) works with many
organizations that provide services to parents and children in the education system.  We wanted to give an overview of resources related to AT and education to make sure you or your child are receiving the services and AT they need for a successful school year.

In K-12 education, school districts bear responsibility for providing assessments to determine a child’s need for assistive technology.  Typically these needs are written into the child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan.

Michigan Alliance for Families is a statewide resource to connect families of children with disabilities to resources to help improve their children’s education.  They help facilitate parental involvement as a means of improving educational services and outcomes for students with disabilities. Michigan Alliance can assist you in knowing your rights, effectively communicating your child’s needs, and advising how to help them develop and learn.  Each Michigan Alliance staff member is a parent or family member of an individual with disabilities who has first-hand experience with the aspects of the special education system.  Check out their website (above) which is full of helpful resources.

The Center for Educational Networking is another resource that works with the Office of Special Education and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education ACT) grant initiatives.  Their website offers more useful resources and documents.  CEN can also be a resource for parents with students in the special education systems.

Michigan Integrated Technology Supports (MITS) is another resource that can help students receive needed assistive technology.  Their lending library contains AT devices that are only available to K-12 school districts.  The MITS “Freedom Stick” is a USB drive that can be obtained for free.  It has the full Open Office suite (comparable to Microsoft Office), the Balabolka Text-To-Speech system, an on-screen calculator which allows students to paste their math work into homework or test documents, a “mind mapper”, the Audacity audio recorder/player, and many more supports.

If you or your child are looking for services as they transition from high school to college or employment, Michigan Rehabilitation Services can help provide these services beginning at age 14.  Similarly, the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons can provide transition services beginning at age 14.  Additionally, the Michigan Department of Education – Low Incidence Outreach  (MDE-LIO) MDE-LIO provides educational materials, supports, and services to families, local school districts, and intermediate school districts to support students who are blind/visually impaired  and students who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing (K-12).

Off to college or post-secondary education?  The Michigan Association on Higher Education and Disability (MI-AHEAD) has information for students on transitioning from high school to college, assistive technology, requesting accommodations.  Check out our webinar, “AT and Secondary Education” that the MATP created with MI-AHEAD.  A second webinar, “AT in Special Education” also offers great information related to K-12 students.

If you are having trouble receiving the services and supports you need, Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service can provide resources, advocacy, and in certain cases legal support.

Welcome back students.  Best of luck for a great school year!  Remember, educating yourself is the best way for you and your child to advocate for their needs in the classroom, and assistive technology is so important both in and out of the classroom.





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