The aim of this study was to determine the effects of using a team-based, systematic assessment, planning and implementation process with students with multiple disabilities. Students and their educational teams took part in an assessment and implementation process that included: administering the Lifespace Access Profile assistive technology assessment (Williams, Stemach, Wolfe & Stanger, 1993); videotaping of students' assistive technology use using a videotaping procedure and rating guidelines developed for the study; detailing a specific plan for assistive technology use in daily environments; and ongoing support and assistance throughout this process from a team facilitator.
An explanatory case study research strategy was adopted in order to capture individual and contextual factors. A pilot study was conducted involving 14 students and their educational teams, to refine procedures and theoretical propositions. In the main study, four children with multiple disabilities, aged 6 to 17 years, all attending a special school in Queensland, Australia, as well as their educational teams (4 parents and 16 staff members), were involved. Data was collected from multiple sources in order to construct as complete a picture as possible of each case within the real-life educational setting (Yin, 1994). Both quantitative and qualitative data were gathered to determine the effect of the team assessment and implementation procedure on both process (team collaboration; family involvement; team knowledge skills and attitudes; the nature of assessment and planning; and goal setting) and student outcomes. Quantitative data included multiple baseline measures of students' accuracy, speed and visual attention during assistive technology use. Qualitative data included pre- and post-assessment Individual Education Plan (IEP) goals, project officer fieldnotes, and focus groups conducted with each team and with parents.
Results indicated improvements in relation to more systematic and detailed assessment, and team members' enhanced knowledge, skills and attitudes toward assistive technology. IEP goals were considered more realistic, achievable, and teambased, and better integrated into functional tasks as a result of the process. In some cases, teamwork and team collaboration had improved, while in others, the extent of collaboration was affected by logistical issues or pre-existing teamwork difficulties. Although parent participation was also affected by unpredicted logistical factors, increased parent awareness and implementation of assistive technology use was evident. Parents and staff identified a variety of student benefits, including emotional, communication, social and behavioural. Improvements in environmental mastery, participation in daily living tasks, and physical or cognitive skills were also reported. Multiple baseline measures showed a variable pattern of change with regard to physical accessing of assistive technology devices. Results are discussed in relation to principles for assistive technology practice in educational environments.