Before beginning an Assistive Technology (AT) intervention, it is important to have a framework of practice. The framework provides a structure which guides the AT implementation process, one of which [...]



Before beginning an Assistive Technology (AT) intervention, it is important to have a framework of practice. The framework provides a structure which guides the AT implementation process, one of which is the SETT Framework.


The SETT Model

SETT is an acronym for Student, Environment, Tasks, and Tools. Although originally designed for school based teams, the SETT framework can also be used for other populations from early intervention to the adult population. (Zabala, 2005)



When thinking of the student, consider the following questions :

  1. What is the functional area of concern?
    What does the student need to be able to do that is difficult to do independently at this time? At this point, it is appropriate to state “write”, “speak” or “mobilise”. This question allows the team to reach a consensus on the important areas for this student (Zabala, Ready, SETT, go! Getting Started with the SETT Framework, 2005).
  2. What are the student’s special needs that contribute to these concerns?
    The aim of this question is to identify barriers that is preventing this student from participating in school (Zabala, Ready, SETT, go! Getting Started with the SETT Framework, 2005).
  3. How are the student’s current abilities related to these concerns?
    By considering the student’s abilities, the team can identify abilities that can be built upon and enhanced, rather than replaced (Zabala, Ready, SETT, go! Getting Started with the SETT Framework, 2005).
  4. What are the student’s interests?



The environment refers to the things and people where the AT system is expected to be used which includes the following (Zabala, 2005):

  1. Instructional and physical arrangement
    The team should also consider other environments where the system may be used such as the home, at the playground and such. The environment should be considered in as great detail as possible, for example, where does the student sits in the classroom and if there is a power socket nearby to charge the laptop or if an extension cord is needed.
  2. Support available to student and staff
  3. Materials and equipment commonly used by others in the environment
  4. Technological, physical and instructional access issues
  5. Attitudes and exceptions of staff, family



The question is:

  1. What specific tasks that the student should perform to attain educational goals and participate in life (Zabala, 2005)? This question should be answered in a lot greater detail compared to what was discussed in the functional area of concern where “write” or “speak” would suffice. The quality, quantity and nature of the work should be spelled out in detail because the tool considered would be quite different.



Tools consist of devices, services, strategies, training, accommodations, modifications that may help a student succeed. After evaluating the student, environment and tasks, the team considers the following:

  1. Is it expected that the student will not be able to make reasonable progress without assistive technology (Zabala, 2005)? AT should not be used as a reward, or as a substitute for the lack of instruction, training, or practice.
  2. If yes, describe a useful system that may enable the student to make reasonable progress.
  3. Brainstorm specific tools that can be included in the system to address the student needs.
  4. Select the most promising tools for trail in the natural environment
  5. Collect data on effectiveness.


Using the SETT framework

The SETT framework is not a protocol. It can be used as part of an existing process, such as referral, or when formulating individual educational plan. The following are critical elements when using the SETT framework and must ALWAYS be included (Zabala, 2005):

  1. Shared knowledge
    A major premise of this framework is that decisions should be based upon the agreed upon, mutually valid shared knowledge of the team.
  2. Collaboration
    When the people who are making the decisions and those who will be impacted by the decisions collaborate, there will be greater buy-in for effective AT implementation.
  3. Communication
    There should be active and respectful communication between the team members.
  4. Multiple Perspectives
    The success in implementation of the AT depends not only on the professional perspectives of the team members but also that of the student and parents.
  5. Pertinent information
    There may be information that is not relevant in the AT decision making process during the discussion. It is important to be able to be able to identify that.
  6. Flexibility and patience
    Team members are urged not to suggest possible solutions until it is time to talk about tools. What may seem like a “perfect” solution may not be so when all the factors have been considered.
  7. On-going process
    The decisions reached using the SETT framework is valid based on the evidence considered. It is thus important to revisit the SETT framework periodically to include new evidence that have emerged or update old ones.


Zabala, J. (2005). Ready, SETT, go! Getting Started with the SETT Framework. Closing the gap Vol 23, No 6. Retrieved from Closing the Gap.

Zabala, J. (2005). Using the SETT Framework to level the Learning Field for Students with Disabilities. Retrieved from Joy Smiley Zabala, Ed.D: