What is the SETT Framework?

Joy Zabala explains that the SETT Framework provides an effective way of decision making when Individualized Educational Teams consider Assistive Technology. In order to make effective assistive technology decisions specific information needs to be obtained. Information about the Student, the Environments, and the Tasks must be gathered and thoughtfully considered before an appropriate system of Tools can be proposed and acted upon by the team. Thus, the SETT Framework, developed by Joy Zabala, considers the Student, the Environment and the Tasks required for active academic and social participaton before attempting to identify the features or components of the system of tools needed for the student to address the tasks and be successful.

The Student:
  • What does the Student need to do?
  • What are the Student's special needs and current abilities?
The Environment:
  • What are the instructional and physical arrangements?
  • What materials and equipment are currently available in the environment?
  • What supports are available to the student and the people working with the student on a daily basis?
  • How are teh attitudes adn expectations of the people in the environment likely to affect the students performance?
The Tasks
  • What activities occur in the student's natural environments which enable progress toward mastery of identified goals?
  • What is everyone else doing?
  • What are the critical elements of the activities?
  • How might the activities be modified to accommodate the student's special needs?
The Tools
  • What no tech, low tech and high tech options should be considered for inclusion in an assistive technology system for a student with these needs and abilities doing these tasks in these environments?

Zabala, Joy. (1996). SETTing the stage for success: Building Success Through Effective Selection and Use of Assistive Technology Systems.

Gathering Information:

When an Assistive Technology Request for Consultation is completed, it eventually reaches the C.A.S.E. Itinerant Services Office and into the hands of the Assistive Technology Team. At that point a C.A.S.E. AT consultant gets in touch with the referring team and sets up an initial consultation meeting. At that time information about the the student, the environment(s) and the task(s) that interfere with the student's ability to make adequate progress towards his/her goals. Most often an observation of the student takes place. A student interview may also be involved in the "information gathering" step of the AT consultation process.

Sometimes AT worksheets are sent to team members prior to the initial consultation meeting in order to help guide team members through discussion and to pinpoint specific tasks that need to be supported by Assistive Technology.

Determining supports:

Once the educational team has determined the task(s) which requires AT, the team should work with the AT consultant to generate or brainstorm ideas of supports or "tools." The team MUST consider tools that range from Low to High tech.


For each tool the team must complete a trial period in order to collect data and determine effectiveness.

Action Plans:

Once a particular tool (i.e. AAC device, software, writing support) has been determined the IEP team should then create an Action Plan in order to outline the trial. This plan will help team members be consistent and collected needed data in order to determine the tool's effectiveness.


Data is so very important in order to determine efficacy of the tool for the benefit of the student. In addition, funding is reliant upon concrete data.


After a specific tool or support has been trialed, the IEP team may feel that the tool or support is necessary in order for the student to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of the student with a disabilty (20 U.S.C. Section 1402(1)(A); 34 C.F.R. Section 300.5). It may be helpful for the IEP team to create an Implementation Plan in order to outline implementation of the tool or support.