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Learners with Complex Needs

Last Updated: 8/23/2021 2:18 PM


Assistive Technology and Accessible Educational Materials Center


Ohio Center for Autism & Low Incidence (OCALI)

The Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence serves families, educators, and professionals working with students with autism and low-incidence disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairments, other health impairments, and traumatic brain injuries.  OCALI has a variety of centers. These include the Autism Center, Teaching Diverse Learners Center, Universal Design for Learning Center, Family Center, Center for the Young Child, Lifespan Transitions Center and the Assistive Technology Center (see below).


Assistive Technology Center

OCALI’s Assistive Technology Center features resources, supports, professional development, and a short-term lending library to assist in the effective implementation of assistive technologies for persons with disabilities. Assistive technologies can assist those with disabilities to more independently access school, work, and life activities.


SIFTS Online Tool for AT Considerations

The SIFTS online tool is a quick and easy web-based survey tool developed primarily to support IEP teams who need assistance in matching student needs and strengths to assistive technology features. IEP team members can select statements that best represent their student’s strengths and needs, targeted tasks the assistive technology will support and environments where the tasks will occur within a selected domain of assistive technology. The SIFTS website is managed by the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI).


Assistive Technology Resource Guide

This resource guide on the assistive technology (AT) decision-­making process was created to assist Ohio school districts in understanding their obligation to provide needed AT devices and services to students with disabilities. General information on the school district’s responsibility to consider the AT needs of all students who are receiving special education services and on the legal implications for districts is provided.

As outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), the local school district must provide for the specific needs of students with disabilities through a team process, including assessment for AT needs and implementation of AT services. Local educators and related service providers must make sound judgments on AT solutions that will be a part of the student’s individualized educational program (IEP). It is OCALI’s hope that this resource guide will support schools in making sound judgments in these areas.

This guide was developed in collaboration with the Ohio Assistive Technology Network with funding from the Ohio Department of Education’s Office for Exceptional Children. Discover the AT Resource Guide online!


Assistive Technology Equipment & Trials

An important step of the Assistive Technology (AT) assessment process is hands­-on trials with potential AT solutions. The OCALI Assistive Technology Lending Library offers a wide variety of AT equipment that can be borrowed for hands­-on trials prior to purchase.

The Lending Library allows users to borrow books, videotapes, DVDs, and other media on autism spectrum disorders and low-incidence disabilities. The resources are shipped to Ohioans at no cost. The library offers a Top 10 Most Requested Books for families, and an assistive technology device lending library where users can explore AT features with an AT device loan from the lending library. Short term loans are available for AT device evaluations.


Assistive Technology Internet Modules (AIM)

Assistive Technology Internet Modules (AIM) is designed to provide high-quality information and professional development for anyone who supports, instructs, works with, or lives with someone with autism. Each module guides viewers through case studies, instructional videos, pre- and post-assessments, a glossary, and much more. The modules are available at no cost; certificates and credit options are available for a fee. AIM modules will soon be available for continuing education unit credit.


Resources for Working with Learners with Deafness and/or Blindness


The Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness at OCALI has several important documents relating to the education of students who are deaf, blind, or deafblind. These include the documents as well as interactive transcripts.


The Ohio Guidelines for Working with Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired document is available online. The purpose of the document is to provide decision-makers and families with a set of guidelines and information regarding services to meet the educational needs of students who are blind or visually impaired, and highlights recommended standards and guidelines found in high-quality programming.


The Guidelines for the Assessment and Educational Evaluation of Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing were developed in accordance with Ohio Operating Standards for the Education of Children With Disabilities, Ohio Administrative Code of Rules 3301-51-01 to 09 and 11, and 21.

Communication and language are the foundations of learning. Students in an educational setting who are deaf/hard of hearing access communication in a variety of ways. It is important for teams, including students and families, to gather and share information about a student’s language, communication, and access. 


The Communication Planning Guide for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing is a tool that can help facilitate a meaningful discussion as team members embark on this decision-making process. The Communication Plan, organized into five sections, incorporates effective communication guidance for IEP teams: language, auxiliary aids and services, direct communication/instruction, and accessibility. Careful consideration of each aspect of this plan will allow teams to feel confident as they plan for successful and meaningful communication access for students in the educational setting.


State-wide Directory of Providers (Teachers of Deaf, Teachers of Visually Impaired)



The Ohio Partnership for Excellence in the Preparation of Paraprofessionals


Working in Partnership to Strengthen Paraprofessional Preparation and Development throughout Ohio, OPEPP efforts focus on the strengthening of systems that support paraprofessionals and those who prepare and develop them. Through an innovative partnership model, OPEPP engages school districts, regional providers, and higher education through information dissemination, training and technical assistance designed to build the capacity of paraprofessionals to support instruction and student learning. Statewide in its service reach, OPEPP is coordinated through the Columbus-based Systems Development & Improvement Center, which is part of the University of Cincinnati, College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services.





SST16 Consultant

Lisa Arthur