Get SETT to Help AT Users

By Eve Kessler, Esq.

AT A GLANCE                     

Despite the value of assistive technology (AT), students who can benefit from it may reject using it To increase the use of AT tools, your child’s team can employ the SETT framework, a protocol designed to overcome obstacles

By definition, assistive technology (AT) spans a continuum of technological devices from simple low-tech items to complex electronics—all of them designed to help level the playing field for kids with learning and other disabilities. But none of them have value if your child won’t use them.

Students with LD who are entitled to AT and can likely benefit from it are sometimes reluctant to use it. They may spurn the prescribed technology because it doesn’t have the “cool” factor of more socially acceptable devices; or “it makes me look different;” or they conclude, “it doesn’t work” after trying it once.

Regardless of the positive impact AT devices might provide, if your child doesn’t want to use them, he won’t.

Enter the SETT Framework. Developed by educator Joy Zabala, Ed.D, using this framework from the start can increase opportunities for success by addressing obstacles that lead students to abandon or under-use AT tools.

What Is SETT?

An acronym for Student, Environments, Tasks, and Tools, the SETT Framework helps school teams come to a shared understanding of each student’s needs, abilities and interests, the details of his environment, and the specific tasks required for him to become an independent learner.

At the heart of SETT is this 8-step decision-making process:

  1. Identify areas of concern
  2. Gather information related to concerns
  3. Analyze information
  4. Generate and prioritize potential solutions
  5. Develop a plan
  6. Work the plan and collect data on effectiveness
  7. Revise the plan as indicated by the data
  8. Document outcomes

Think of this as a continuous improvement loop: based on outcomes, the process should then begin again taking into consideration new or revised objectives.

Through this collaborative decision-making process, an appropriate system of supportive tools and interventions—devices, services, strategies, accommodations, modifications, training— is developed for each student. For example, if a pencil grip does the trick, there’s no reason to look into speech-to-text applications. On the other hand, after careful review the team might conclude that a student could benefit from voice-recognition programs, screen readers, screen enlargement applications, or computer programs to help with memory and attention.

To learn more about the SETT protocol, access Dr. Zabala’s website where you’ll find information along with the assessment tools to implement this framework.

This article is based on a presentation by Professor Bo Zamfir, Center for Educational and Assistive Technology, Southern Connecticut State University, articles by Joy Smiley Zabala, Ed.D., ATP, and the QIAT-PS Student Self-Evaluation Matrix, Eve Kessler, Esq., a retired criminal appellate attorney, is Executive Director of SPED*NET, Special Education Network of Wilton (CT), and a Contributing Editor of Smart Kids.

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