RESNA Annual Conference - 2019

ITIP2: Interdisciplinary Technology Instruction Program For Individualized Technology Implementation Planning

Michelle Kaye Silverman1, Sara Jozwick1, Shelley Lund1, Victoria Moerchen1, Roger O. Smith1

1University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


Federal legislation (i.e., IDEA) mandates that members of individualized education program teams consider assistive technology (AT) when planning to meet the needs of each student with a disability in public school. However, there is little evidence that all students who need AT have access to appropriate devices and services. [1,2] Systematic research efforts document the supply and demand needs for AT expertise in schools. [3] This research complements national snapshots that paint a patchy picture of the status of preparation efforts directed at teachers and related service personnel capable of maximizing the potential of AT and instructional technology for students with disabilities. [4-7] Indeed, a recent survey of AT service providers underscores the need for interdisciplinary training to support effective service coordination and outcomes measurement. [8] While we are charged to consider AT interventions, the level of competence among the workforce, both real and perceived, is tenuous. Thus, there is a critical need for research-oriented practitioners who understand and can collaborate effectively to implement evidence-based practices (EBPs) for students with disabilities.

A figure depicting the interrelated nature of special education and related services of OT, PT and SLP in providing individualized services to facilitate success for students with high intensity needs.  
Figure 1: ITIP2 Design
Developed in part under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs and facilitated by the recent CAAHEP/CoA-RATE accreditation of the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee's Assistive Technology and Accessible Design Certificate (ATAD Certificate), the Interdisciplinary technology instruction program for individualized technology implementation planning (ITIP2) Program launched in January 2019. With the stated purpose of fostering the interprofessional development of an innovative personnel preparation program utilizing EBPs to address the shortage of highly qualified special education and related service personnel specially trained to implement technology interventions (AT, instructional technology) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) for the school-age population.

Figure 1 depicts the overarching interactive and interdisciplinary design of the ITIP2 Project that provides collaborative training for occupational therapy (OT), physical therapy (PT), speech and language pathology (SLP) and special education (SpEd). Importantly, this approach serves the student with high intensity needs as the center of focus with dynamic interactive team collaboration being enveloped by the infusion of instruction on EBP and AT interventions.

This paper outlines the development and initial stages of implementation, challenges and opportunities presented by this innovative AT education program the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM).



The ITIP2 program was designed to create a program including interdisciplinary coursework, assignments and interprofessional education for preprofessional students in special education and related fields providing assistive technology. It was further designed to infuse evidence -based practice with coordinated clinical experience and a collaborative interdisciplinary capstone project or thesis. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was uniquely positioned to implement these course design elements given an existing infrastructure for the CAAHEP accredited ATAD certificate in place already designating much of the coursework needed.

The design of ITIP2 emerged from embedding students with disabilities as well as their parents who had been through the public-school process in the program planning, implementation and evaluation. The strength of the program is that it incorporates hands-on and field experiential learning, embeds the highest caliber accredited level education, and infuses instruction based on both practice and small n research

The ITIP2 collaborating faculty team was able to leverage the ATAD Certificate, already in place, with its overarching student competencies and overlay some additional and add a specialization in school-based AT within the certificate. Furthermore, the ITIP2 was able to break through a major ATAD barrier of ensuring coursework and field experiences were available to students in the complementary professions of OT, PT, SLP and SpED who are frequently on assistive technology teams together in various settings.

Faculty and Participants

Table 1. Faculty Affiliation
Faculty Affiliation Number
Occupational Therapy 2
Physical Therapy 1
Communication Sciences and Disorders 1
Special Education 1
Engineering Support 1

For students in programs deemed essential for collaboration to participate fully, at least one faculty member from each discipline was invitedand agreed to participate. Additionally, technical and engineering support was invited to facilitate technology and assistive technology implementation.  See Table 1 for faculty affiliations.

Text Box: Table 2. Student Affiliation    Professional Program	Number of applications	Number accepted  OT	9	3  SLP	2	2  PT	1	1  SpEd	N/A   Years 2-5 only	N/A   Years 2-5 only    Student participants in this program were recruited from our current pool of graduate students already admitted into occupational therapy, physical therapy, communication sciences and disorders and special education graduate programs. Funding was available for 6 students in this first year. The program received a total of 12 applications and offered 6 scholarships. See Table 2 for student affiliation information.

Program of study

Professional Program Number of applications Number accepted
OT 9 3
SLP 2 2
PT 1 1
SpEd N/A
Years 2-5 only
Years 2-5 only

The program of study required collaboration between and within 4 professional graduate programs. One faculty member from each of the four programs participated in program planning and curriculum design. The curriculum was designed to ensure that students would take a key set of foundational and advanced coursework both within their own graduate curriculum and together overlapping coursework in key assistive technology and research coursework. Students are also required to attend two faculty led research seminars per semester and attend two faculty approved assistive technology conferences during their graduate program of study.

Challenges and opportunities

Development of this program proposed several challenges and opportunities. The most significant challenge was overlapping curriculum to ensure interprofessional education including shared coursework and field experiences. While we were unable to ensure that all four professions were in coursework and the field together as a cohort, we were able to ensure that students from at least two professions were in key courses together. While a significant challenge, all the involved programs recognize the significant opportunity this provides for interprofessional education and were able to make the necessary accommodations to their prescribed courses of study. A second challenge will be creating the opportunity for overlapping and shared evidence-based practice research project or thesis. The project is now launching its first cohort and began with a seminar exploring their individual program research requirements and interests. To facilitate collaboration in practice, the program intentionally initiates research conversations early. To facilitate collaboration in practice, the program intentionally initiates research conversations early in their respective programs.

Opportunities specific to this program are numerous however, the primary opportunity is facilitating interprofessional education within our colleges and departments. Interprofessional Education is a quickly developing strategy in facilitating interprofessional practice once in the workforce. While technology itself is facilitating some opportunities for this through virtual reality and simulations, the chance to collaborate with supervision on projects and in the field is a unique benefit of this project.


Over the five years of funding of the ITIP2 project, 42 students will graduate with interprofessional and advanced assistive technology education complimenting their disciplinary training. It is our hope that this program will become an example of the possibility of interprofessional education and how it can facilitate improved outcomes for students and other clients receiving assistive technology services from AT professionals.


[1] Edyburn, D. (2013). Critical Issues in Advancing the Special Education Technology Evidence Base. Exceptional Children, 80(1), 7-24.D. L.

[2] Edyburn, D. (2015). Efficacy of Assistive Technology Interventions (First ed., Advances in special education technology ; v. 1). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

[3] Rao, K., Ok, M., & Bryant, B. (2014). A Review of Research on Universal Design Educational Models. Remedial and Special Education, 35(3), 153-166.

[4] Bausch, Margaret E., & Hasselbring, Ted S. (2004). Assistive Technology: Are the Necessary Skills and Knowledge Being Developed at the Preservice and Inservice Levels? Teacher Education and Special Education, 27(2), 97-104.

[5] Michaels, C., & Mcdermott, J. (2003). Assistive Technology Integration in Special Education Teacher Preparation: Program Coordinators' Perceptions of Current Attainment and Importance. Journal of Special Education Technology, 18(3), 29-44.

[6] Michaels, C., Prezant, F., Morabito, S., & Jackson, K. (2001). Assistive and Instructional Technology for College Students with Disabilities: A National Snapshot of Postsecondary Service Providers. Journal of Special Education Technology, 17(1), 5-14.;

[7] Quinn, B., Behrmann, M., Mastropieri, M., Chung, Y., Bausch, M., & Ault, M. (2009). Who is Using Assistive Technology in Schools? Journal of Special Education Technology, 24(1), 1-13.

[8] Arthanat, S., Elsaesser, L., & Bauer, S. (2017). A survey of assistive technology service providers in the USA. Disability and Rehabilitation. Assistive Technology, 12(8), 789-800.

This work was developed in part under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (grant number H325K180164).  The content of this work does not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.