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Need for AEM FAQ


The following frequently asked questions (FAQ) provide detailed information related to determining if a student needs accessible educational materials.

For more information about other steps of the AEM decision-making process, please visit the related resources in Navigating AEM. Additionally, the AEM Navigator is a process facilitator which contains in-depth information, scaffolded supports, and extensive resources to guide the decision-making process.

Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)

Print- and technology-based educational materials designed to be usable across the widest range of individual variability.

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What already-existing data and information can be used to help a team decide among options?

Some of the specific types of information that can be used to help teams make a decision about the need for specialized formats include but are not limited to the following:

  • Sensory abilities
  • Physical abilities
  • Cognitive abilities
  • Reading level, including formal and informal reading diagnostic information
  • Indications in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan
  • Academic achievement scores and grades
  • Curriculum-based assessments
  • State-wide and district-wide assessment participation and proficiency

What methods can be used to gather additional information that will help a team decide among options?

Some of the methods used to gather additional information include—

  • Trials with materials in specialized formats
  • Formal measures conducted by a psychologist, a reading specialist, an audiologist, a vision teacher, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, etc.
  • Learning media assessments conducted by vision specialists
  • Outside evaluations or reports from a doctor or other medical professional(s)

Could a student without an identified disability benefit from using a specialized format such as digital text?

Yes. Many students with and without disabilities may prefer and could benefit from the flexibility of digital and audio materials; however, the provision of audio and/or digital materials for those students is a curricular decision made by a school or district and is not required by law.

What information or data would indicate that a student can use standard print-based instructional materials?

If a student is making adequate progress and spending a reasonable amount of time on tasks that require obtaining information from print using standard print-based instructional materials, then their team can determine that there is no need for specialized formats. Data and information can be collected through—

  • Informal observations by teachers and parents
  • Interviews with students, parents, and teachers
  • Classroom-based assessments
  • Curriculum-based assessments
  • Academic progress
  • State-wide and district-wide assessment results

What are some questions a team may explore to determine if a student may not be able to make effective use of standard print-based materials?

There are many reasons why a student may have difficulty using print-based materials. Examples of questions a team might explore include—

  • Can the student see the material well enough to read the information?
  • Can the student physically manipulate the material without undue effort?
  • Does the student have the necessary physical stamina (e.g., sitting upright, alertness) to read for extended periods of time?
  • Can the student decode letters and words at or near grade level?
  • Can the student read with fluency at or near grade level?

Is there a general indicator that a student could use or learn to use a specialized format effectively?

A primary indicator would be that the student understands the content of print materials when the information is presented in another format. For example, when printed material is read aloud to the student, the student understands the content and can use the information.

What are some of the benefits of providing curriculum materials in a digital format?

Unlike print-based curriculum materials, which are fixed, digital curriculum materials are flexible. Thus they can be easily modified to provide students with multiple means of accessing content. Some benefits of providing curriculum materials in a digital format are listed below:

  • Text-to-speech decoding and comprehension support
  • On-demand reading aloud of typed responses for editing
  • Options to customize text font size and page layout
  • Multimedia glossary to provide vocabulary support
  • Learning supports and study skill supports built-in

What if the team knows that the student already uses one or more specialized formats?

If specialized formats are currently being used by the student, the team can indicate that the student needs one or more specialized formats and can justify the decision by noting a continuing need for the specialized formats currently provided to the student. As the team proceeds, there will be opportunities to consider whether currently used formats are sufficient or if additional or different formats are needed.

What is the difference between a specialized format and an alternative material?

A specialized format of a print-based material includes exactly the same content as the printed material. The specialized format does not change the content, only the way in which the content is presented to the student. The specialized format neither adds nor changes any information. An alternative material may address the same goals, but the content of the material is modified or changed in some way (usually made less complex) so that it can be understood by the student.

What are some indications that a student may require modified content or an alternative material?

If content typically presented to a student has to be changed or modified for this student to understand the information, it is possible that the student would not be able to make use of the material in a specialized format.

What sources of information can a team use to determine that a student is currently unable to master the same content as provided in the general curriculum?

Sources of information or data may include the following:

  • Trials with materials in specialized formats using the same content and trials using alternative materials
  • Reading diagnostic information
  • Informal observations by teachers and parents
  • Indications in an individualized education program (IEP) or 504 plan
  • Formal measures conducted by a psychologist, psychological associate, or educational diagnostician
  • Outside evaluations or reports from a doctor or other medical or educational professional(s)
  • Determination by the IEP team that the student requires alternative state-wide or district-wide assessments
  • Determination by the IEP team that the student requires an alternative educational curriculum

Individual Education Program (IEP)

Written plan individually developed for students identified as having a disability under IDEA.

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Section 504

Prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. Written 504 plan used to guide provision of instructional services.

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Digital form or representation of a sound which may be used for non-visual access to text and images.

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Print Instructional Materials

Printed materials written and published for use in elementary and secondary school instruction, required by a SEA or LEA for use by students in classroom.

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Text-to-Speech (TTS)

Artificial production of human speech, using special software and/or hardware.

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