Assistive Technology Resource Center (ATRC) 

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Student using a Dynavox T10 with mounting for communication access.
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Student with bilateral splints for stylus to access an IPAD.
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Student using a splint for accessing a switch.
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Student using a Maestro with 2 head switches for communication access.

Assistive Technology @ CPS

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) provides assistive technology devices and services in two areas: (1) Assistive Technology (AT) to access to the curriculum; and (2) Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) for communication support.

The appropriate implementation and use of assistive technologies has the ability to increase abilities and provide greater accessibility to educational opportunities for eligible students with disabilities. Assistive technology devices and services can be used to extend physical, social and communication skills and provide the means for academic inclusion. Many students with disabilities have successfully used assistive technologies to minimize barriers to gain access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).

Programs & Services

The Assistive Technology Resource Center (ATRC) is a valuable resource center which provides CPS with the ability to provide eligible students with disabilities access to a variety of assistive technology devices and services that may not be available at the school level. The ATRC provides the following services:

  1. Consultations: Assistance with helping to determine if AT or AAC is needed for a student.
  2. Coaching: In-person assistance with implementation strategies for AT & AAC devices in the classroom.
  3. Evaluations: An assessment conducted to help select the appropriate equipment and/or acquire knowledge of the appropriate strategies to give the student access to the curriculum and/or for communication.
  4. Acquisition: Upon the recommendation of the AT or AAC Evaluator, and the agreement of the IEP/504 Plan team, the ATRC will provide trial and/or loaner equipment for qualifying CPS students (if appropriate assistive technology is not available at the school level). All equipment, issued to individual students by the ATRC, is considered on loan to the student until they: a) no longer require the equipment to succeed academically, b) no longer are eligible for IEP/504 services, or c) leave the CPS school system.
  5. Training: A trainer provides instructions on how to use the assistive technologies to access the curriculum and/or communicate. Training resources such as webinars and websites are available online. Additionally, training may be offered in-person or via telephone as needed.
  6. Follow-Up: ATRC conducts periodic status checks for loaner AT devices throughout the district; and will continue to follow-up with staff regarding data collection and equipment use.
  7. Technical Support: We offer support for device repairs and/or replacement for all ATRC recommended and/or loaned equipment.

Students: Any student in the CPS system who has an active IEP or 504 Plan, and requires alternative access to the curriculum and/or communication, but is unable to obtain access to the needed assistive technology at the school level may be serviced through the ATRC.

Student Educational Support System: The ATRC will provide services for school staff, related service staff, and parents in order to support the student's need to access the curriculum and/or communication.

The ATRC provides a variety of trial and loaner assistive technology equipment that allows eligible students to gain access to their age/grade appropriate general education curriculum via environmental controls, communication or learning. Equipment is matched to each student on an individual basis after assessing the student's abilities and goals.

The ATRC Staff is comprised of qualified general and special education teachers with specialized training and experience in the field of assistive technology, speech language pathologists, and occupational therapists, with consultation from deaf and hard of hearing and vision teachers, when appropriate.

AT Processes

  • School teams consider the assistive technology needs for all students who receive special education services or supports via an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
  • The IEP Team should agree that the student has a need for assistive technology to meet a specific goal.
  • A member of the IEP/504 Plan team must submit a referral for an assistive technology evaluation via Specialized Services Management (SSM).
  • The assigned ATRC Staff will first consult with the referring staff regarding the referral. If it is determined that equipment is not available at the school level, an evaluation will be scheduled.
  • Evaluations are completed by a member of the ATRC team. Based on the information provided at the time of the referral, trials with technology, and a review of the student's needs, the ATRC Staff will use his/her knowledge of assistive technology to select a strategy or technology solutions to assist the student with completing a specific goal/task.
  • If equipment is recommended by the ATRC Staff, the IEP/504 Plan team will review the recommendation. If they agree with the recommendation, the student's IEP/504 Plan must be revised to include the recommendations and be associated with a goal (if on an IEP).
  • When the ATRC Staff receives notification from the team that the IEP/504 Plan has been revised, because the team accepts the recommendations, the ATRC Staff will then either send equipment to the school for that student or provide the equipment at a large group training.
  • School based staff, related service staff, parents and/or students will either receive training in-person or utilize online webinars and/or training resources.
  • For AAC systems, large group training is required for staff working with students for whom a communication system is recommended. Training is open and strongly recommended for anyone within the student's community (i.e. parents, guardians, etc.).
  • Follow-up is also required for students receiving equipment. Staff will receive a data collection sheet along with the equipment. Data must be collected and reported back to the ATRC STAFF quarterly. Any member of the Student's Educational Support System can collect data and/or provide the ATRC staff with feedback on the student's use and progress with the equipment.
  • The ATRC will provide technical support for all ATRC equipment. We have a repair technician who will troubleshoot the equipment. When the equipment cannot be repaired internally, the technician will coordinate the repair with the vendor. Replacement loaners will be provided for devices that cannot be repaired. Please refer to our FAQ, What should I do if the device is broken?
  • All assistive technology equipment provided by the ATRC is loaned to a student while attending a CPS entity. When a student no longer attends CPS, the equipment must be returned to the ATRC. If a student transfers between schools, the equipment must be sent to the next CPS entity. Please refer to our FAQ, What should be done with the device at the end of the school year?
  • It is expected that the assistive technology should be implemented within a student's curriculum and associated with a goal in the students IEP. If the IEP/504 Plan team determines that the assistive technology is no longer needed or appropriate, then it must be returned to the ATRC. Please refer to our FAQ, What do I do if my student no longer uses the assistive technology provided?
  • Referrals can be submitted for a re-evaluation based on changing needs of the student or demands of the school environment. The ATRC Staff will provide support and technical assistance to schools, parents and/or students for the assistive technology recommended and provided by the ATRC.
  • Any assistive technology obtained from any other source other than the ATRC will be considered for support on an individual basis.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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All Assistive Technology Referrals must be submitted through SSM. Please go to the student's record in SSM, select [documents], [create new document], and select [Assistive Technology Referral]. Be sure to finalize the document once this is completed and you have the guardian/parent signature. A student must have a 504 Plan or an IEP prior to submitting an AT/AAC referral. Documents should not be faxed if they are currently in SSM. Please keep the signed referral in the student's permanent records.
Staff should access the Assistive Technology or Augmentative and Alternative Communication Report in SSM to review the evaluation and recommendations. Schools must amend the IEP to add the recommended AT/AAC into the IEP. In addition the AT/AAC should be added to a goal to address an area of need. Schools must take data of AT/AAC usage to determine the effectiveness of the recommended assistive technology. Generic data connection sheets are available for school teams and parents.
  • Attend the IEP revision or IEP to consider the recommended assistive technologies and determine as a team if these assistive technologies are appropriate. Attend training (either large group or at the school) on the recommended assistive technologies.
  • If the student will be bringing assistive technology equipment home, then parents must sign the Home Use Agreement. There are specific usage agreements required for the various types of devices students may take home.
  • Assistive technology equipment should be monitored and secured within the home environment. Parents should be supportive of use of assistive technologies to assist with device usage. Parents may be asked to take data of AT/AAC usage to determine the effectiveness of the recommended assistive technology.
  • If assistive technology cannot be located at the home (i.e. lost or stolen), the home may be responsible for providing substitute equipment AND/OR submitting a police report.
  • If their child transfers to the next school, parents should let the next school know that their child uses assistive technologies and ensure that equipment transfers quickly to the next school.
  • If their child no longer attends CPS, then parents should return all assistive technologies to the last school attended so that it can be returned to the Assistive Technology Resource Center.
  • The parent should monitor their child's use of any ATRC provided computer technology to ensure that the device is used in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct and the Student Acceptable Use Security Policy.
All equipment assigned to a student should follow that student within CPS to the next school. Contact the AT/AAC Evaluator for your school network if assistance is needed.
  • All ATRC equipment must be returned to the ATRC for students no longer using the equipment.
  • At an IEP or revision meeting, discuss the issues with use/non-use with the team.
  • If the team agrees that the assistive technology is no longer needed, then the assistive technologies must be removed from the IEP and the team must complete the Assistive Technology Repair/Return Form.
  • Ship the equipment and paperwork in a secure envelope or box to ATRC using the Assistive Technology Repair/Return Label.
  • Contact the AT/AAC Evaluator for your school network if assistance is needed.
  • If the student is returning to the same school, make sure it is labeled with the student's name and lock it away safely for the summer;
  • If the student is graduating from Elementary School, transfer it to the new CPS high school;
  • If the student is attending summer school, ship it to the ESY site; or
  • If the student is leaving the CPS system and/or graduating from high school, the equipment must be returned back to the ATRC.
  • Troubleshoot the problem. Are the batteries OK? Is the device fully charged?
  • Call Technical Support through the company for the device for suggestions. (This is crucial for dynamic display augmentative and alternative communication devices.) The toll-free number is usually on the device.
  • If the equipment cannot be repaired after contacting the company's technical support line, ship the device via CPS distribution to the ATRC using the Assistive Technology Repair/Return Label. The school must complete a Warehouse and Distribution Request for Service Form and fax it to 5-4195.
  • Email notification to your assistive technology contact that the device is being shipped back for repair. Please include the student's name, school name and a contact's name in the box.

For additional information please call the main office at 773-553-4033 for further questions about Assistive Technology or Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

Contact Information

Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services
Assistive Technology Resource Center

42 West Madison
Chicago, Illinois 60602
773-553-4033

Page Last Modified on Tuesday, December 29, 2015