If you’ve read our articles on Assistive Technology, you (hopefully!) have a solid understanding of what "assistive technology services" we’re talking about...now, it’s just a matter of finding that just-right clinician, specialist, consultant, or certified AT Practitioner!
Easier said than done, though.
Just like with any professional service, you need to do some research to find an Assistive Technology provider who can deliver the expertise that you are looking for. It's a diverse profession with many sub-specialties: vision, hearing, mobility, educational applications, communication, vocational skills, environmental controls, Universal Design...and the list goes on!
The Differences Between Assistive Technology Specialists, Consultants, and Practitioners
Assistive Technology services are often provided by people with varying “titles” or designations: Assistive Technology Practitioner (ATP), Assistive Technology Specialist, or Assistive Technology Consultant. They can all be called "Assistive Technology Professionals."
So what’s the difference between those three titles?
The latter two titles: Specialist and Consultant are often used interchangeably to describe someone who has additional skills in the area of assistive technology. Some AT specialists or consultants are clinicians with backgrounds in other areas like Speech & Language Pathology, Occupational Therapy, Special Education, Physical Therapy. Many of these providers have additional training or experience in assistive technology but degrees of expertise is subjective and can vary widely between clinicians.
Only an Assistive Technology Practitioner, or ATP, is a certified professional regulated by credentialing through RESNA (Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America) to monitor competency. ATPs can also be OT, speech, special education, or rehabilitation-based clinicians but the key difference between an ATP and another AT provider is that their competencies and ongoing professional development standards are monitored by a credentialing agency. While ATPs may choose to specialize in one or more areas of assistive technology, they have demonstrated competency in overall AT knowledge and have passed a rigorous exam proving their skills.
What’s in a name?
Okay, so does any of this name-calling really matter?
I always tell parents to educate themselves about the background, skills, and services they are investing their time, money, and emotional dedication into!
You wouldn’t trust your dog groomer to cut your hair into the latest style trend, would you? Even though both are handy with scissors, I’m pretty sure they’re two completely different skill-sets! Likewise, you’re going to want to make certain that the Assistive Technology provider who you are entrusting for help has the skills that you/your child need to succeed!
The only way that you are going to ensure a clinician’s competency, regardless of credentials, is to ask some questions about their training, experiences, references, and skills...in addition to taking a closer look at where and how that “specialist” name was earned.
When you find your just-right assistive technology provider, it may not matter as much if they call themselves a specialist or consultant... or if they have more fancy letters after their name! If they’re able to provide the services that you need, and the relationship works to support you/your child, it doesn’t really matter what’s in a name, does it?
Where to Find an Assistive Technology Practitioner Near You
RESNA - Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America