Assistive Technology and Performance Enhancement
To what do we compare the individual's performance to determine whether it is increased or improved, as stated in the AT definition?
We could compare it to the performance of the individual before they used the technology.
With a self-propelled manual wheelchair, a child could get from one class to another independently, which could not be done before. With a hearing aid, an adult could hear more than they could before. With a audio-visual prompting system, a person with cognitive disabilities can do more steps of a complex work task. But the question would still remain, how much improvement is enough?
With children who have physical, sensory or cognitive disabilities from birth, we know that they will continue to lag behind their peers in the expected performance on typical tasks in and out of school, even as they continue to develop.
Even after the child learns to use the wheelchair, they might not be able to get from place to place fast enough to change classes within the class break time, or they might not have enough endurance to propel their wheelchair from one end of a large school to another.
As the illustration shows, there is a gap between what they can do and what is expected of them. At younger ages (the vertical line) the gap is smaller but usually increases as they get older.
A child who has difficulty eating, dressing, speaking, writing, or memorizing will never experience less expectation to do these things, only more.
A child or adult with a progressive neurological disease (e.g., muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis or ALS) will experience an increasing gap between what they can do and what they need to do as the medical condition progresses over time.
For children or adults with acquired disabilities (e.g., traumatic brain injury) who had already achieved typical performance, maintaining, rather than improving, performance is the goal.