To become an ATP, there are several criteria that have to be met before being allowed to sit for an exam.Guide to Becoming an
Those who have a Bachelor or Masters Degree in a Rehab Science or Special Education can use their degree alone to meet the educational requirement to sit for the ATP exam. RESNA defines Rehab Sciences as one of the following: medicine, nursing, low vision rehabilitation, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech-language pathology, audiology, vocational rehabilitation, engineering (biomedical, clinical, or rehabilitation), prosthetics & orthotics, recreation therapy, and rehabilitation technology. Rehabilitation technology is further defined as an Associate degree curriculum for technicians focusing upon application of technologies to the needs of people with disabilities.
Those having a Bachelor Degree in a non-rehab field can qualify after taking 10 hours of specialty certified training course in assistive technology. You may also qualify with an Associate Degrees or HS diploma/GED after taking 20 or 30 hours respectively of additional assistive technology education.
My story: I had a Bachelor’s Degree in a non-Rehab Science so I was required to take the 10 hours of additional education. I took the online course by the University of Pittsburgh. This course consisted of online learning modules and assignments along with a monthly conference call and webinar. At the end of the course, I attended a 3 day hands-on workshop learning about products and how to apply them to patient needs. I highly recommend this program.
Work Experience Requirements
Gaining the necessary work experience to become an ATP is the most difficult criteria to meet. This work must be in the field of assistive technology and usually comes from the area of wheelchairs and other mobility devices as a rehab technologist or a rehab technology specialist.
To qualify as acceptable work experience, the work must be:
- remunerated, meaning you must be paid for the work,
- must be direct services provided in-person to the consumer,
- performed in the last 6 years.
The amount of work experience needed also depends on the level of post-graduate education the person has:
- Master’s Degree in Rehab Science or Special Education – 1000 hours in 6 years.
- Bachelor’s Degree in Rehab Science or Special Education – 1500 hours in 6 years
- Bachelor’s Degree in Non-Rehab – 2000 hours in 6 years
- Associate Degree in Rehab Science – 3000 hours in 6 years
- Associate Degree in Non-Rehab Science – 4000 hours in 6 years
- HS Diploma/GED – 6000 hours in 10 years
Meeting these work requirements can be difficult because of the chicken and the egg dilemma. You need the experience to get certified but most providers want their employees to be certified. In some cases, like Medicare patients, it may be required that the providing employee of the DME company is a RESNA-certified ATP.
There is a way through this though. RESNA will approve any of the following work tasks a qualifying experience as long as the work was performed in-person with the individual:
- Evaluations, assessments, and other direct-to-consumer/student services (needs assessment, physical/functional/sensory assessments, educational assessments, site assessments, simulations and product trials)
- Fitting, adjustment and readjustment services (fine tuning of equipment to meet the consumer/student’s needs and reflect changes in the consumer/student’s status)
- Implementation and training for consumers/caregivers or students/support personnel (training in use of AT or strategies to maximize function and interface with the environment(s) of use, instruction in use and/or maintenance)
- Product development that involves direct consumer participation
Many of the above tasks are performed by rehab techs and even equipment manufacturer’s reps who can use this experience to become an ATP and sit for the exam.
Unfortunately, there are many tasks that Assistive Technology providers perform that do not qualify as RESNA-approved experience. These tasks usually do not meet the “in-person” requirement. These tasks are:
- Phone and paperwork tasks such as customer service calls, scheduling appointments, information gathering and/or processing paperwork and orders for assistive technology.
- Computerized tasks like billing third-party payers, collecting payments from insurers or consumers and/or processing claims for assistive technology orders.
- Educational tasks like professional development, didactic teaching or teaching providers/educators on topics of assistive technology, if it does not include consumer/student contact
- Research and/or development tasks if they do not include consumer/student contact
- Telecommunication relay services
If you have work experience that you think qualifies and it is denied, there is an appeals process. If you choose to appeal, make sure you can demonstrate that the work was in-person with a patient or you don’t have much hope!
All of the above educational and work requirements must be met before applying to take the ATP exam. Once you feel you have met these requirements, an application must be completed and sent to RESNA. Key parts of this application are:
- Verification of education – including copies of diplomas and additional assistive technology education if required.
- Verification of work experience – you must list out on the application details of the type of qualifying work you have performed and how many hours you spent in that activity.
- Employer verification of work experience – your employer must also sign off that you performed these activities and meet the number of hours required. If you are the owner or highest level manager at your location, you can submit 3 references that can verify your experience.
- Good Moral Character Affidavit – you must certify that you have never had felony criminal charges, fraud charges, and a host of other criminal activity. You must also state you have never been sued civilly due to poor integrity or bad judgment and that you have never been removed from any organization or fired from a job because of this.
- There are also a series of demographic questions to answer as well.
Once the application is completed, it must be sent with the application fee (currently $500.00) to RESNA. If approved, you will receive notification in about 3 weeks of where and when to schedule your exam. If you are not approved, you will receive an explanation as to why.
The exams are given in blocks. This means you must have your application in and approved by a certain deadline and then you must take your exam within a certain period of time. For example, to take your exam in April, May, or June, you must send your application in the December, January, or February before. There is a late application process too if you are willing to pay a late fee. Some planning must be made well in advance to make sure you can test during the period you want or need.
Preparing for the ATP Exam
I want to warn you right now that this exam is not easy at all.You are going to have to study… a lot! I took Chemical Engineering in college.This exam was as difficult as some of those that I took in college. You are paying $500 to take the exam and it should be taken very seriously. The passing rate was 55% for 2012, 63% for 2013, and 71% for 2014. I was fortunate and passed the first time. I attribute some of that to the tools I used to study for the exam. Here are all the tools and guides I used to prepare for the ATP exam.
Mometrix ATP Exam Secrets Study Guide
I found this book extremely helpful for studying for my exam. It had a ton of tips about how to analyze the questions to determine the correct answer. There are also practice test questions to get a feel for the exam. I will also tell you that the actual exam was a lot like these practice tests. The Mometrix ATP Exam Secrets Study Guide is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. From time to time, there are people selling used copies too that are a little less expensive. It is a bit pricey but in my mind is absolutely mandatory.
ATP Exam Flashcards
This was my secret weapon for passing the exam the first time. I used the flashcard method in college and high school to study and this tool gives you the same ability to quiz yourself. I believe that is the best way to learn this material. This comes to you printed on sheets of cardstock from which you separate the cards. I kept mine in my car with me so that I could study whenever I had a few extra minutes. These ATP Exam Flashcards are available at Amazon in paper form and kindle form as well. My advice is to get the paper form – I am not sure how effective flashcards will be on a device!
Assistive Technologies: Principles and Practice, 4th ed
This is literally the textbook on Assistive Technology. You will hear this quoted often in assistive technology media as “Cook and Hussey’s” who are the authors of the original edition of the book. Like I said, this is an actual textbook so it does read like one. Here’s how I used this book to study. I read the chapters and then answered the questions at the end. Many of the answers are in the back to check yourself. It is a good way to get some of the basic concepts down which will help you when you use the other study aids above. Cook and Hussey’s Assistive Technology: Principles and Practice, 4e is also available at Amazon in hardback, Kindle edition, and can also be rented for minimal cost. I do think it is worth having your own copy if you are going to work in the field – I still refer to mine occasionally.
The ATP exam consists of 200 multiple choice question and you will be given 4 hours to complete it. You take the exam at a Prometric testing center on a computer at a private workstation. I took my exam at one of their centers in a little strip mall about 20 minutes from where I live.
Note that Prometric takes exam administration very seriously. You will be required to place all your belongings in a locker. You cannot take anything in the testing area with you including cell phones! You will be required to empty your pockets and, yes, they will check them. The TSA doesn’t have anything on them!
The exam starts off with a 10-minute tutorial then actual testing begins. You will receive an immediate but preliminary pass-fail notification when you finish the exam. Written confirmation will follow in the mail in about 3 weeks.
The exam questions will range from medical knowledge to equipment selection to professional ethics. You may also be tested on other areas of assistive technology like speech generating devices or vision and hearing aids. I remember my exam had questions about both of those. You will have the ability to skip questions and come back to them later. Just make sure all questions have answers before submitting your final results.
ATP Exam Outline and Topics
The ATP exam outline (which has changed effective July 1, 2016) is broken out as follows:
- 30% of the questions will be about assessing the patient’s needs. This includes the evaluation process, reviewing medical information from other professionals, matching the patient with appropriate assistive technology, and coordinating the recommendations with the other team members.
- 27% of the questions will be about the development of intervention strategies. This part of the process is identifying the products required to meet the goals, conducting trials, determining measurable objectives to know if the technology is working, determining funding methods, and reviewing the process with the individual.
- 25% of the questions will be about the implementation of the intervention. These are the activities that take place once the device or equipment is funded: ordering and delivering the technology, training the user and caregivers on safe and effective use of the equipment, and informing user and caregivers of their rights and responsibilities.
- 15% of the questions will be about the evaluation of the intervention. This is the part of the assistive technology process where you verify the equipment is meeting its goals and desired outcomes, handling complaints and repairs, and making changes as required.
- The final 3% of the questions are about professional conduct and ethics. Questions here will come from the RESNA’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.
As I stated before, the test will be intense. Follow all the normal test-taking suggestions like getting a good night’s sleep the night before, eat a healthy balanced meal the morning of the exam, and take deep breaths and try to relax.
After Passing the Exam
Once you pass your exam, you will be awarded a certificate stating your official certification as an ATP. At this point you have met your goal, you have become an ATP! Your certification is good for 2 years. You must be recertified every 2 years as well. To renew your ATP, you must show that you have met all continuing education requirements and maintained the required work experience in hands-on, direct to person assistive technology work.
Sources and Additional Resources:
If you have any questions about the process to become an Assistive Technology Professional, please leave a comment below or you may also contact me here anytime if your question is more private in nature. Please also leave a comment if you have taken the ATP exam and add to my advice on how to become an ATP!