Who needs AIM?
Table of Contents
- Overview: Decision Point One: Determining Need
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- AIM Center Resources for Need
Overview: Decision Point One: Determining Need
Determination of need is the first decision point. The decision-making team thinks about whether the student 1) can gain information from standard print-based instructional materials used across the curriculum by all students, 2) needs the materials in a specialized format, or 3) needs modified content or alternative materials.
Option One: The student can use standard print-based instructional materials used across the curriculum by other students.
If the team chooses this option, they anticipate that the student will make adequate progress reading and gaining information from grade-level print-based materials. Evidence indicates that specialized formats of instructional materials are not needed at this time.
Option Two: The student requires exactly the same content in one or more specialized formats.
If the team chooses this option, evidence collected indicates that the student cannot use standard print-based instructional materials effectively at this time. The team anticipates that the student will make adequate progress if exactly the same information is presented in one or more specialized formats (e.g., braille, large print, audio, or digital text).
Option Three: The student requires modified content or alternative materials.
When the team chooses this option, evidence collected indicates that the student cannot use typical print-based materials effectively at this time due to a disability that impacts comprehension of information, and the team anticipates that the student will need alternative materials. Alternative materials address the same educational goals as standard print documents, but content is modified (usually made less complex) so that the student can better understand it. Some students may need alternative materials in specialized formats in order to access them.
Frequently Asked Questions
The following frequently asked questions (FAQ) section provides detailed information and resources related to determining if a student needs accessible instructional materials.
For more information about other steps of the decision-making process, please visit the related sections of All About AIM. Additionally, the AIM Navigator is one of the products made available through the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials. The AIM Navigator is a process facilitator which contains in-depth information, scaffolded supports, and extensive resources to guide the decision-making process.
What already-existing data and information can be used to help a team decide among options?
Some of the specific types of information that can be used to help teams make a decision about the need for specialized formats include but are not limited to the following:
- Sensory abilities
- Physical abilities
- Cognitive abilities
- Reading level, including formal and informal reading diagnostic information
- Indications in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan
- Academic achievement scores and grades
- Curriculum-based assessments
- State-wide and district-wide assessment participation and proficiency
What methods can be used to gather additional information that will help a team decide among options?
- Trials with materials in specialized formats
- Formal measures conducted by a psychologist, a reading specialist, an audiologist, a vision teacher, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, etc.
- Learning media assessments conducted by vision specialists
- Outside evaluations or reports from a doctor or other medical professional(s)
Could a student without an identified disability benefit from using a specialized format such as digital text?
Yes. Many students with and without disabilities may prefer and could benefit from the flexibility of digital and audio materials; however, the provision of audio and/or digital materials for those students is a curricular decision made by a school or district and is not required by law.
What information or data would indicate that a student can use standard print-based instructional materials?
If a student is making adequate progress and spending a reasonable amount of time on tasks that require obtaining information from print using standard print-based instructional materials, then their team can determine that there is no need for specialized formats. Data and information can be collected through—
- Informal observations by teachers and parents
- Interviews with students, parents, and teachers
- Classroom-based assessments
- Curriculum-based assessments
- Academic progress
- State-wide and district-wide assessment results
What are some questions a team may explore to determine if a student may not be able to make effective use of standard print-based materials?
There are many reasons why a student may have difficulty using print-based materials. Examples of questions a team might explore include—
- Can the student see the material well enough to read the information?
- Can the student physically manipulate the material without undue effort?
- Does the student have the necessary physical stamina (e.g., sitting upright, alertness) to read for extended periods of time?
- Can the student decode letters and words at or near grade level?
- Can the student read with fluency at or near grade level?
Is there a general indicator that a student could use or learn to use a specialized format effectively?
A primary indicator would be that the student understands the content of print materials when the information is presented in another format. For example, when printed material is read aloud to the student, the student understands the content and can use the information.
What are some of the benefits of providing curriculum materials in a digital format?
Unlike print-based curriculum materials, which are fixed, digital curriculum materials are flexible. Thus they can be easily modified to provide students with multiple means of accessing content. Some benefits of providing curriculum materials in a digital format are listed below:
- Text-to-speech decoding and comprehension support
- On-demand reading aloud of typed responses for editing
- Options to customize text font size and page layout
- Multimedia glossary to provide vocabulary support
- Learning supports and study skill supports built-in
What if the team knows that the student already uses one or more specialized formats?
If specialized formats are currently being used by the student, the team can indicate that the student needs one or more specialized formats and can justify the decision by noting a continuing need for the specialized formats currently provided to the student. As the team proceeds, there will be opportunities to consider whether currently used formats are sufficient or if additional or different formats are needed.
What is the difference between a specialized format and an alternative material?
A specialized format of a print-based material includes exactly the same content as the printed material. The specialized format does not change the content, only the way in which the content is presented to the student. The specialized format neither adds nor changes any information. An alternative material may address the same goals, but the content of the material is modified or changed in some way (usually made less complex) so that it can be understood by the student.
What are some indications that a student may require modified content or an alternative material?
If content typically presented to a student has to be changed or modified for this student to understand the information, it is possible that the student would not be able to make use of the material in a specialized format.
What sources of information can a team use to determine that a student is currently unable to master the same content as provided in the general curriculum?
Sources of information or data may include the following:
- Trials with materials in specialized formats using the same content and trials using alternative materials
- Reading diagnostic information
- Informal observations by teachers and parents
- Indications in an individualized education program (IEP) or 504 plan
- Formal measures conducted by a psychologist, psychological associate, or educational diagnostician
- Outside evaluations or reports from a doctor or other medical or educational professional(s)
- Determination by the IEP team that the student requires alternative state-wide or district-wide assessments
- Determination by the IEP team that the student requires an alternative educational curriculum
AIM Center Resources for Need
National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials. (2010). AIMing for achievement: Providing accessible instructional materials [DVD]. Available from http://aim.cast.org/experience/training/AIMAchvDVD.
The AIMing for Achievement DVD includes content on a variety of topics that are important to the provision, selection, acquisition, and use of accessible instructional materials. The DVD contains interviews and illustrative scenarios that increase awareness and knowledge that support timely provision of accessible instructional materials to students who need them for educational participation and achievement.
National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials. (2010). AIM Navigator. Retrieved from http://aim.cast.org/experience/decision-making_tools/aim_navigator.
The AIM Navigator is an interactive tool that facilitates the process of decision-making around accessible instructional materials for an individual student. Four major decision points in the process include 1) determination of need, 2) selection of format(s), 3) acquisition of format(s), and 4) selection of supports for use. The AIM Navigator also includes a robust set of guiding questions and useful references and resources specifically related to each decision point. Different scaffolds of support are built-in so that teams can access information at the level needed to assist them in making informed, accurate decisions.
Stahl, S., Zabala, J., Hitchcock, C., & Hendricks, V. (2010). Accessible textbooks in the classroom II: Selecting specialized formats. Retrieved from http://aim.cast.org/learn/practice/use/accessible_textbooks_II.
This article, updated by the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials, is the third in a series of explorations related to the acquisition and use of accessible, specialized-format, instructional materials for elementary and secondary school students with print disabilities. Suggested guidelines for determining which specialized formats and which tools to access them are best suited to a given student’s print-related challenges are provided.
Zabala, J. & Carl, D. (2010). What educators and families need to know about accessible instructional materials: Part two: Navigating the decision-making process. Retrieved from http://aim.cast.org/learn/accessiblemedia/allaboutaim/aimbasics.
Part Two of the AIMing for Achievement Series addresses a decision-making process regarding need, selection, acquisition, and use of accessible instructional materials for use by IEP or other decision-making teams.