Ideas on Re-Visioning AT Services

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This document shares ideas on re-visioning AT services.  The Do the Math activity and the Allocation Pie Chart activity are two ways to get the conversation started about the current state of AT services.  It is important for AT teams to analyze what is currently in place and then use the discussions as a springboard to change. Change is hard, but taking the time to focus on ways to provide more efficient and equitable services is an important first step. 

Multiple individuals can contribute to this list of ideas about building capacity to enhance AT services and supports. If you have an idea that you would like to share, please contact the NATE Network at natenetwork@gmail.com .

 

Activities to Help AT Teams Re-envision AT Services

 

What the “Do the Math” Activity Helps You Consider as a Team?

When presenting on “The Changing Role of AT Teams”, Gayl and I typically begin with the “Do the Math Activity” (See the Revisioning AT Services Resources).  This activity asks teams to focus on the number of students they serve, versus the number of students they want or are expected to serve. This activity is an AT team eye-opener, even if you are a team of one, or a group of part-time AT specialists.  It gets the conversation started on what is the true role of your AT Team within your district. It raises the important question of who do you serve? And it generates discussion on the AT team’s realistic ability to carry out their mission. In order to effectively deliver equitable AT services, you need to be sure your model of service delivery is an effective match to the population you serve. 

 The Do the Math activity begins by asking you to estimate the total number of students in your organization (e.g., schools, campuses, district or region you serve.) Then the worksheet asks you to identify the population of students you are expected to serve.  Based on your response, you then can estimate the potential number of students qualifying for AT services. Not all students require AT, so you are then asked to estimate the percentage of qualifying students who would likely need AT. When you arrive at the final estimated number of students, you then are asked to divide this number by an appropriate caseload ratio (e.g. 1 staff to 50 students, or 1 to 75.)  

This activity was not designed to help you justify a request for more staff positions.  It was designed to help you gauge the degree to which you are able to address current needs in your organization.  It is a conversation starter– A way to begin re-visioning AT services. It also raises issues about who is NOT being served. Are we providing equitable services across disability, racial, and socioeconomic lines? This is what drove us to look seriously at ways to build capacity. We’re at a time in educational history where we have something to offer all students in the margins. This is our challenge. In what ways can we move the field of AT to be able to serve more learners.  (Contributed by Denise DeCoste, MA)

 

Talking with Supervisors After the “Do the Math” Activity

It doesn’t matter whether your district has 800 students or 80,000. When people “do the math”, they see that the current system won’t ever work with a 1-1 model. One of the implied outcomes that arises from this activity is an understanding that there will never be enough experts to provide the individualized attention that is needed (e.g., teachers of students with complicated disabilities or complicated needs, new teachers, situations where there is conflict with parents, or situations where the student has not made progress over a long period of time.)

And who are the people and the students who might benefit from a capacity building model? Classrooms where the numbers of students with similar disabilities learn together, teachers who have lots of tech experience and want to take ownership, or IEP teams experienced with AT often benefit from and appreciate strategies that advance their knowledge to meet the needs of their students.

 It may be that with your numbers and population, a more one-student-at-a-time is very appropriate. But even if that is the way you decide to design your AT services, it is important to employ strategies to help build the AT related knowledge and skills of the teachers you support. 

We do find, that as with any other change, the change from a 1-1 student model to a capacity building model presents many issues that will require dialogue among AT team members. As you build a 3-year plan to alter your model, what we find is that communication about the plan is really important. As you get started with your plan, the big question that must be addressed should focus on  “the capacity to do what?” That question will have a different answer for each district. Having a clear sense of your mission and who you serve is an important first step.

One thing that seems to have a lot of impact is close communication with your teams’ supervisor. Supervisors can have your back and answer questions from staff about the changes. And it’s okay to communicate an adjustment in the way AT Services are presented.  It’s fine to say “We did the math and so we are developing systems that might work better with the staffing that we have.” (Contributed by Gayl Bowser and Denise DeCoste)

 

Allocation Pie Chart Activity

Many of those who have participated in the “re-visioning” process talk about their “courageous” team conversations. The purpose of the Allocation Pie Chart activity (See Revisioning AT Services Resources)  is to get that conversation going– it’s about envisioning new ways of carrying out your vision. And this takes time. 

The Allocation Pie Chart activity focuses on how your AT team allocates time. Your allocation pie chart is a starter activity to help you reconsider how you allocate time devoted to AT service delivery.  For some, this will take many meetings. In those early discussions, it is often hard to keep the conversation on track. Some teams are ripe for change as they see what they are doing is limited or not as effective as they want, so there is more consensus. At other times, teams are committed to the status quo and so there is less consensus. The Allocation Pie Chart activity is an exercise to help you discuss the possibility of change.

Once you have AT team consensus on a new vision for your team, it is important that you revisit your allocation pie chart and your vision a few times per year. For example: 

  1. At the start of the year to reaffirm your vision
  2. In January to discuss what is and is not working
  3. To reset objectives to achieve your vision.

STAY FLUID! Do not feel that you have to achieve your re-allocation vision within a year. It is a multi-year process. The development of your  “3-Year Plan” serves as your guide– your blueprint for change.                (Contributed by Denise DeCoste)

 

Change is Hard

This idea of changing the way your team works IS a difficult one. A capacity building model always means change and it also means having to change the way the team thinks about their role. One thing that has helped teams when they struggle to define a new way of doing things is to have a discussion that goes like this: (It is a segue to the “allocation pie chart activity.)

  • “What is our team’s role in XXX?” (i.e., consideration, referral, providing equipment, reporting student progress, etc.)
  • “What should our role in XXX be?”
  • “What changes can we make to move in that direction?”

We often hear, especially at the beginning of the revision process, that the conversations can be overwhelming. I sometimes suggest that a team pick one area at a time to discuss. I am also suggesting that finding a place where you can agree on a direction for change and using it as a springboard to change might help your team at the start. (Contributed by Gayl Bowser)