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Assessment of Speech/Language/Communication Skills Terri Carrington, M.A., CCC-SLP


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Title: Assessment of Speech/Language/Communication Skills Terri Carrington, M.A., CCC-SLP

Assessment of Speech/Language/Communication
Skills Terri Carrington, M.A., CCC-SLP
Purpose of Assessment
  • Qualifying for Services
  • Programming Services

Qualification for Services
  • Students do not have to meet criteria for
    services for speech/language disorder.
  • By definition, students with autism qualify for
    speech/language services
  • Speech/language services are often the primary
    service for high functioning students.
  • The speech/language pathologist contributes
    information to educationally diagnose autism, but
    more importantly indicates programming priorities.

Characteristics of Communication in Individuals
with Autism
  • Difficulties with comprehension of
  • Spoken Language
  • Gestures and body postures
  • Facial expression

Characteristics of Communication (cont.)
  • Social awareness is lacking, or very poor,
    resulting in
  • Impoverished strategies for beginning to
    understand the communication process
  • Difficulty initiating social contact, or lack of
    awareness of need to direct message at
    communication partner
  • Difficulties in responding to others reciprocally

Characteristics of Communication (cont.)
  • Cognitive deficits, resulting in problems with
  • Assigning meaning
  • Perspective taking and empathy
  • Generalization
  • Organization and sequencing
  • Abstract thinking

Characteristics of Communication (cont.)
  • Language production problems, such as
  • Mutism, lack of gestures and facial expressions
  • Nonfunctional use of speech
  • Echolalic speech
  • Verbal perseveration
  • Unusual rate, voice quality, fluency, intonation
  • Unconventional or challenging behaviors used as
    means to communicate messages

  • The Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals
    (CELF-4) is useful as an overall look at
    receptive and expressive language.
  • Ages 5 to 21
  • CELF-P Preschool to Early Elementary
  • Difference between language disordered and
    autistic individuals was the large variance in
    the scores of the group with autism
  • Authors report a 1.5 to 2 standard deviation
    difference in the scores of normally developing
    students and their peers with autism.

  • Assessment of Basic Language Skills
  • Assessment curriculum guide
  • Skills tracking system
  • Task analysis
  • Purpose to help identify those language and
    other critical skills that are in need of
    intervention in order for a child to become more
    capable of learning from his everyday experiences
  • Tested skills are arranged in an approximate
    developmental sequence

Comprehensive Assessment of Spoken Language (CASL)
  • Especially relevant
  • Supralinguistic Tests
  • Nonliteral Language
  • Meaning from Content
  • Inference
  • Ambiguous Sentences

Looking at Speech
  • Articulation is usually not the primary concern
    with these individuals, and deficits are thought
    to occur at about the same rate as within the
    typical population
  • There is a correlation between autism and
  • Unusual prosody, rate of speech, and voice
    problems do occur
  • There are no assessment tools specific to speech
    deficits for students with autism

Comments on Formal Assessment
  • Keep in mind students with autism will often have
    better expressive than receptive language.
  • Comprehension is often overestimated
  • Higher functioning individuals will often do well
    on standardized tests, but struggle in everyday
  • Always augment standardized information with
    informal measures

Formal Assessment Lists
  • http//
  • http//
  • Asperger Syndrome and Adolescence Practical
    Solutions for School Success, 2001, by Brenda
    Smith Myles and Diane Adreon, published by Autism
    Asperger Publishing Company

What do you use?
  • The Westby Play Scale! Its one of my faves.
    User friendly and parallels play and language
    side by side. In addition, it looks at Theory of
  • Speech, Language Pathologist
  • Source Assessment of Cognitive and Language
    Abilities through Play in Language Speech and
    Hearing in the Schools, Vol. 11, 154-168

What do you use?
  • Id use the Test of Problem Solving, the Test of
    Pragmatic Language, and the Clinical Evaluation
    of Language Fundamentals. Also need language
    sampling and observation in multiple settings.
    Id need to be sure we had a history, all the
    medical information, and Id probably use the
    Childhood Autism Rating Scale or something
  • Speech, Language Pathologist

Informal Assessment
  • Language Sample
  • Apply SALT or some other method of looking at
    sentence structure, morphological development
  • Be aware this is not the primary information you
    want from a language sample

Language Sampling with the More Challenged Student
  • Consider imaginative vs. constructive play
  • Communication Temptations
  • Observe in a social environment

Language Sample Questions Specific to Autism
  • Did the students vocabulary seem appropriate for
    his age level? Decreased? Increased?
  • Did the students language seem pedantic or
    little-professor like?
  • Did you notice echolalia, perseverative speech or
    repetitive questions? Describe.
  • Did you notice difficulty with figurative
    language, sarcasm, interpreting humor,
    interpreting idioms?
  • Comment on the inflection, pitch and prosody of
    the students voice. Were those appropriate to
    age and topic?
  • Did the student talk about a wide range of
    topics, or did he talk mostly about a special
    interest area?
  • Could he transition easily from one topic to the
  • Was the student able to use language for a
    variety of functions? Could he initiate,
    comment, ask and answer questions, sequence
  • Did the student seem to know many facts about a
    particular subject?

Materials and Activities for the Language Sample
  • Problem Solving
  • Reciprocal Play
  • Joke and Riddle Books
  • Let the student pick a topic
  • Barrier games
  • Opportunity to ask questions, respond to sarcasm,
    indirect speech, figurative language

Assessing Functionally Nonverbal Students
  • Think in terms of a system of communication
  • Aided/Unaided
  • High Tech/Low Tech/No Tech

Assessing Functionally Nonverbal Students
  • The focus of assessment aligns wit the reasons we
    support the use of AAC-Participation
  • Much of the assessment will occur in naturalistic
  • There are no prerequisites for the use of AAC,
    but there are assessment questions which will
    assist in designing the most appropriate options
    for individuals

Assessing Functionally Nonverbal Students
  • Ecological Assessment
  • Assessment team consists of stakeholders
  • Team identifies students environments and
  • Team identifies upcoming transitions
  • Team creates detailed description of activities
    occurring in identified environments
  • Team prioritizes activities
  • Team looks for ways to improve students
    participation in identified activities

Assessing Functionally Nonverbal Students
  • Additional Ecological Assessments
  • McGill Action Planning System (MAPS)
  • Futures Planning
  • SETT

Assessing Functionally Nonverbal Students
  • Specific Assessments
  • Cognitive Skills
  • Motor Abilities
  • Sensory Functioning

Assessment and Literacy
  • Emergent Reading-uneven development
  • Conventional Reading-word reading is advanced
    compared to comprehension
  • Skilled Readingmany do not get to this level,
    comprehension usually continues to be a problem,
    language problems often exist and interfere

  • Individuals with severe communication deficits
    will often communicate with challenging behavior
  • Our job is to determine the function or meaning
    of that behavior and provide a more appropriate
  • The first step is a Functional Behavior
    Assessment (FBA)

FBA Brief Review
  • Informant
  • Direct Observation
  • Functional Analysis Manipulations
  • Resource
  • Functional Assessment and Program Development for
    Problem Behavior A Practical Handbook by
    ONeil, et al, published by Brooks/Cole 1997

  • Functional Behavioral Analysis
  • Assessment is on-going
  • This is where you take data on your intervention
    and determine whether it is working or not
  • Can be complex and involve multiple variables

Behaviors are Communication