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NATRI Mission and Overview

The mission of the National Assistive Technology Research Institute is summarized and an overview of its research agenda, activities, research methodologies, dissemination processes, and sources of support is provided.

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NATRI's mission is threefold:

  1. To conduct research related to the planning, development, implementation, and evaluation of assistive technology (AT) services in schools,
  2. To identify promising practices in the delivery of AT services, and
  3. To disseminate research findings and information about promising practices in ways that will assist school personnel to develop or improve AT policies and practices for students with disabilities.

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Research Agenda

In order to accomplish its mission, a research agenda has been established to explore the following topics:

  • The status of AT use in schools and the role that AT provides in the education of students with disabilities;
  • The policies, procedures, and resources that school districts use to develop and deliver AT services to their students;
  • The ways that AT decisions are made by teams of people who develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students enrolled in special education programs;
  • The training and technical support that is needed by individuals who are involved with planning and implementing the use of AT devices and services with students;
  • The integration of AT into learning environments and the ways that AT devices and services are used to facilitate instruction and access to the curriculum;
  • The effects that the use of AT devices and services have on the academic, social, and functional performance of students who use them; and.
  • The extent to which institutions of higher education are developing AT knowledge and skills in those who are preparing for professional positions in schools.

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Overview of Activities

Research questions are being posed for each of the above topics in collaboration with a distinguished National Advisory Board consisting of AT consumers, AT specialists, parents of students who use AT, researchers, local and state education personnel involved with AT policy and its implementation, university personnel who provide AT training, AT vendors, and specialists in multicultural issues. The leadership group of the QIAT Coalition, a group of assistive technology practitioners involved in the development of quality indicators for assistive technology services in schools, serves as the Research institute's Assistive Technology Support Team.

Several conceptual models guide the formulation of the research questions, identification of variables that are studied, data collection and analyses, and the formatting of information and products for dissemination. Benchmark schools and districts representing a cross-section of demographics across the nation are being used to identify and study AT practices. Quality indicators, professional standards, research findings, and reports of best practices are being used to establish criteria against which to evaluate data that are being collected.

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Research Methodologies

Numerous research designs and methodologies are being used to answer the research questions. These include survey research, policy analysis, causal-comparative studies, identification of critical incidents in AT practices, direct observations, case studies, interviews, focus groups, and others. The research methodology that is employed is dictated by each research question.

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An accessible Web site and a variety of user-friendly formats is being employed to disseminate the results of the research. Products that are being disseminated include traditional research reports, checklists, instruments, sample policies and guidelines, case study reports of best practices, workbooks for developing AT policies and plans, monographs, technology self-assessment instruments, and templates for designing and implementing components of AT programs.

Additional information about specific investigations, research methodologies, findings, ways to participate in the research, and how to contact NATRI can be obtained by examining the information via links that are on the Home Page.

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Support and Funding

NATRI is supported by the University of Kentucky with additional funding from Cooperative Agreement #H327G000004 from the Research to Practice Division, Office of Special Education Programs, U. S. Department of Education. That funding is provided under the authority of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as codified under CFDA 84.327G.

The research that is being conducted under the auspices of the Institute will produce data and products that will help improve the delivery of AT services to students who can benefit from the use of AT to enhance their abilities to function in schools and in society.

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Last Updated: Wednesday, April 19, 2006
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