My child is struggling to read instructional materials. What should I do?
A good place to start is to talk to your child’s teacher about your concerns. If your child is having difficulty reading or using printed text or other instructional materials, accessible instructional materials (AIM) may be appropriate. The school may suggest these materials, or you may want to start the discussion about your child’s need for AIM with the school.
If your child is not already receiving special education services, you may also want to consider requesting a special education evaluation. After your child has been evaluated, a team will meet to determine whether your child needs an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Students may also be identified as needing accessible materials by a multidisciplinary 504 team. If you think that AIM may be appropriate for your child, read on to find some helpful information.
More information on AIM for Families
- All About AIM
- AIM Basics for Families (English and Spanish)
- AIM: A Technical Guide for Families and Advocates
- AIMing for Achievement: Why Your Child with Disabilities May Need Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) (10/31/12 webinar session archive)
- Access to the General Education Curriculum: The Role of the IEP
- Accessible Instructional Materials and the 504 Plan
What are accessible instructional materials (AIM)?
Accessible instructional materials (AIM) are materials that are designed or converted in a way that makes them usable across the widest range of student variability regardless of format (print, digital, graphical, audio, video). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) specifically focuses on accessible formats of print instructional materials. In relation to IDEA, the term AIM refers to print instructional materials that have been transformed into the specialized formats of braille, large print, audio, or digital text.
Learn more about AIM
What legal issues are important to know about in relation to AIM?
IDEA requires that states and districts ensure timely provision of AIM, to elementary and secondary students with disabilities who need these materials. This means that school districts must take reasonable steps to provide AIM to eligible students with disabilities without delay, typically at the same time as other students receive instructional materials. For students who do not receive special education services under IDEA, the disability civil rights laws (Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act) may require the provision of AIM. There are also copyright issues that may impact the sources that can be used to acquire AIM for your child.
Learn more about the legal issues related to AIM
- The Right of Students with Disabilities Who Need AIM to Receive These Materials in a Timely Manner: A Brief for Families and Educators
- An Examination of the NIMAS and NIMAC Provisions in IDEA 2004: A Brief for Families and Educators
- Equal Access to Learning: Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and Department of Justice (DOJ)
- Understanding the NIMAS and NIMAC Provisions of IDEA: Analysis of the Term Reading Disability Resulting from Organic Dysfunction and Its Relationship to the IDEA Category of Specific Learning Disability
What are some indicators that my child may need AIM?
You and the other members of your child’s IEP or 504 team will review the information from your child’s file, including evaluation results and teacher observations, to determine whether your child needs AIM. There are a number of questions that, when explored by the team, could indicate that your child might need AIM. For example, is your child able to understand text when it is read aloud but unable to read on his or her own? Does your child have a visual disability that makes it difficult to see text or have a physical disability that makes it difficult to hold a book and turn the pages? Is your child unable to read grade-level material independently across all environments/tasks or at a sufficient rate with adequate comprehension to complete academic tasks with success relative to same-age peers?
Learn more about who needs AIM
- Who Needs AIM?
- AIMing for Achievement Series: What Educators and Families Need to Know about Accessible Instructional Materials
How can I collaborate with my child’s school to help my child succeed with AIM?
Two interactive tools are freely available on the AIM Center web site for use by you and the other members of your child’s IEP or 504 team: the AIM Navigator and the AIM Explorer. The AIM Navigator is an interactive tool that is designed to help families and educators walk through the AIM decision-making process. It includes a 4-step process for facilitating teams to make decisions about AIM for an individual student. Guiding questions, resources, and scaffolds of support are built in to assist the team in making informed decisions. The AIM Explorer is a simulation tool where students can try out features found in reading software (e.g., magnification, text and background colors, layout options, text-to-speech settings) so they can decide what settings work best for them as they read text. Both tools can be invaluable to families and educators as they grapple with important decisions regarding the appropriate and timely provision and use of AIM.
Learn more about AIM at school
What does assistive technology have to do with AIM?
Other than embossed braille and large print (which is hard copy by definition), specialized formats require technology to deliver accessible content to the student. The delivery technology, whether an item that is commonly used by others or something different, falls under the definition of assistive technology (AT) for students served under IDEA. When a student needs AT devices and/or services to access the curriculum, educational agencies are required to provide them. IDEA defines an AT device as “any item, piece of equipment, or product whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with disabilities.” An AT service is defined as any service that assists a student in the selection, acquisition, or use of an AT device. AT services include, for example, training or technical assistance for the student, family, or education professionals.
Learn more about assistive technology
How can I support my child at home in using AIM?
One way to support your child at home in using AIM is to find accessible books that your child can read for pleasure. If your child meets the criteria for membership in Bookshare and/or Learning Ally, two major libraries of accessible media, sign up for an individual account. There are also free and for purchase materials available, so be sure to search the Internet for materials that interest your child. Keep in mind that success with shorter, high interest books can provide a positive experience with reading to ensure future success as your child encounters more complex text. Start at a level where your child can experience success and gradually build to more difficult text.
Learn more about AIM at home
How can I learn about AIM in my state?
Visit your state’s AIM page on the AIM Center web site. There you will find information about what’s happening in your state concerning AIM issues.
Learn more about AIM in your state
How can I become more involved in promoting AIM?
Check out the PALM Initiative (Purchase Accessible Learning Materials) to find out about an important new initiative that encourages school systems to purchase digital learning materials that are designed to be accessible from the outset. Unfortunately, not all digital materials are designed and developed with features that make them automatically accessible to all students. Promoting accessibility in digital materials is becoming more and more important as school systems begin to move away from traditional print-based text.
Learn more about getting involved
How can I make sure I stay connected on AIM issues?
Attend AIM Center webinars and presentations. Visit the AIM Center web site. On the AIM Center web site, sign up to receive the AIM Connector e-newsletter. You can also contact the AIM Center via aim [at] cast [dot] org (email).