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Dr. Chris’ Autism Journal
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January 22nd, 2009

Cal-ABA Conference: March 12-14, 2009


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San FranciscoThe California Association for Behavior Analysis (Cal-ABA) is having its 27th annual conference March 12-14 at the San Francisco Airport Hyatt Regency.  The Jigsaw Learning team will have 2 presentations this year: 1) a workshop, presented by Manya Vaupel, and 2) a symposium chaired by me with presentations by Manya, Shannon, me, and Debbie Moss (from LA Unified School District). 

Both presentations are described below….

The conference is of special interest to college and university faculty, researchers, administrators, and practitioners in behavior analysis, psychology, regular and special education, rehabilitation, public health, behavioral medicine, speech and language, social work, business, and human services. Undergraduate, graduate students and family members of individuals with special needs are also encouraged to attend.

The conference offers information, resources, and prSan Francisco 2ofessional development opportunities for Board Certified Behavior Analysts, Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts, psychologists, marriage and family therapists, social workers, speech-language pathologists, regular and special educators, students in those and related fields, and parents and/or consumers of behavior analysis services.

Keynote addresses will be delivered by CalABA’s public policy consultant James Gross, who is sure to inspire listeners to get involved in public policy work, and Sigrid Glenn, a visionary behavior analyst who will clarify burning conceptual questions about what it means to be a “radical” behaviorist. The 2009 Outstanding Contributor to Behavior Analysis, Jon Bailey, will describe “pillars of professionalism” for behavior analysts in his address. This year’s Glenda Vittimberga Memorial Lecture will be on the important topic of psychotropic medications for challenging behaviors, delivered by Jennifer Zarcone.

JigsawLogo.jpg

 

 

 Jigsaw Learning Presentations:

Friday, March 13, 2009     
Fri., 3/13 · 1:45 pm - 3:15 pm
Symposium
(ED, AUT)
(1.5 CEUs - BACB)
Sandpebble A - C
(ID #1149)    

Add #1149 to my program
#1000118770     

Chris

Manya 3

Shannon

Debbie Moss

 

 

Computer-Assisted Instructional Planning in California Schools
Chair: CHRISTINA WHALEN, Jigsaw LearningSchool districts in California are faced with many of the same problems as other states in the U.S. for serving children with special needs. These problems include insufficient staffing, teaching materials, data collection, and finding and implementing effective interventions. One of the biggest problems for schools is lack of funding to address most of these issues. Interventions that can reduce the burden on schools in California is much needed and computer-assisted interventions such as those provided by Jigsaw Learning may help. In this presentation, several computer-assisted programs will be presented by Jigsaw Learning staff and Los Angeles Unified School District including single-subject, case, and group design research.     

Linking Standardized Measures and Curriculum Standards to Intervention
MANYA VAUPEL, Jigsaw Learning
Christina Whalen, Jigsaw Learning
Shannon Cernich, Jigsaw Learning

The development of intervention often involves a ‘learning-as-you-go’ approach where various practices are tried out, often in a single-subject design or case study format. This approach is effective and accepted in most cases. However, when developing a computer-assisted intervention, this is often not possible due to the time and money required for development of the intervention. To ensure quality intervention, computer-assisted programs should be built from best-practices in assessment and intervention including the use of standardized measures, curricula, and national and state content standards. TeachTown programs including TeachTown Basics and TeachTown Avenue use top-notch measures, curricula, and standards to develop these interventions. In this presentation, the method in which the ABLLS, California Content Standards, and other resources were utilized in development will be presented.

Teaching Language and Social Skills Using an Animated Tutor
SHANNON CERNICH, Jigsaw Learning
Christina Whalen, Jigsaw Learning
Manya Vaupel, Jigsaw Learning
Molly Robson, Independent Consultant
Lauren Franke, Independent Consultant

Information on Team Up with Timo computer-assisted instructional programs for students with ASD and language delays will be presented. Team Up with Timo products utilize a lip readably accurate animated tutor, scaffolded teaching and other ABA techniques. Timo targets vocabulary acquisition, reading comprehension, and narrative language skills. Timo Lesson Creator enables educators and interventionists to create individualized social, language, and academic lessons that tie directly to IEP goals. Research supporting the use of Timo in the laboratory will be reviewed, and new research with 3 ASD students in a school setting will be presented. This study uses a multiple baseline design to target narrative language skills in the classroom environment.

Using Teachtown Basics Computer-Assisted Intervention in a Public School Setting
DEBBIE MOSS, Los Angeles Unified School District
Christina Whalen, Jigsaw Learning
Shannon Cernich, Jigsaw Learning
Manya Vaupel, Jigsaw Learning

The implementation of interventions in a public school environment is often difficult and many schools are experimenting with computer-assisted interventions to address their issues with funding, staffing, and resources. In a grant supported by the National Center of Technology Innovation (NCTI), a clinical trial with more than 50 children with autism was implemented. Data will be presented on the effectiveness of the intervention (including on and off computer TeachTown lessons) as assessed by the Brigance and other standardized measures, the usability by staff, and automatic data collection by the TeachTown software. In addition, video clips of children using the on and off-computer lessons will be shown.

Automatic Data Collection and Reporting on Students of Teachtown Basics in the State of California
CHRISTINA WHALEN, Jigsaw Learning
Paul Fielding, Independent Consultant
Asif Rahman, Independent Consultant
Shannon Cernich, Jigsaw Learning
Manya Vaupel, Jigsaw Learning

Data collection and student outcome are one of the biggest problems for effective implementation of intervention. TeachTown is an ABA-based intervention that uses the computer and off-computer activities to teach children with autism, language, and cognitive delays. TeachTown provides a system for collecting data automatically on the computer and offering a system for storing and sharing anecdotal data. In this presentation, data collected automatically from the TeachTown program will be presented including individual student data, classroom data, school site data, SELPA data, and the data on all customers in the state of California, and data on all users to date. Data on more than 1,000 students will be presented along with social validation research.

 
Saturday, March 14, 2009     
Sat., 3/14 · 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Workshop #10
(AUT, DD - Intro)
Room location TBA
(ID #1135)
Fee: $35
Max. enrollment: N/A    

Add #1135 to my program
#1000118770   

Manya 3

Using Technology in Your ABA Programs for Children with Autism
MANYA VAUPEL, Jigsaw Learning
CHRISTINA WHALEN, Jigsaw Learning
SHANNON CERNICH, Jigsaw Learning
There are many challenges to face when implementing effective ABA programs for students with autism. Technology can provide lots of solutions to the challenges teachers, clinicians, and parents deal with in effective ABA programming for students with Autism. In this workshop we will explore what has been done in terms of utilizing various assistive technology to enhance student learning in ABA programs in current research investigations. We will discuss different ideas for using technology in ABA programming in schools, homes and the community, we will provide examples of what is being done currently in schools and clinics, and we will explore the critical components to effective ABA programming and how technology can provide more efficient solutions to some of these components that are easily overlooked. At the end of this workshop, participants should have a better understanding of current practice and research in assistive technology in ABA programming, they should have additional resources in finding and implementing the appropriate technology needed in their programs, and they should be able to identify appropriate technology that will assist or enhance their current instructional programs for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

January 21st, 2009

Assistive Technology, Universal Design for Learning, Visual Representation Systems… What?


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Effective and efficient programming for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is something you hear over and over again, especially if you are completing your graduate courses, a parent worrying about what is happening in your child’s classroom, a clinician diagnosing a child with ASD, or if you are a therapist designing a treatment plan for a child with ASD. We all want to know that effective and efficient programming is in place, but how? For years, technology or computer assisted intervention has been used to improve the quality and efficiency of instruction for students with disabilities, however the use of technology for students with autism still receives very limited attention.

Various aspects of technology can be used for children with autism to improve independence, adaptive skills, academics, social skills, receptive and expressive language skills, communication, motivation, attention, and many other areas of need.  Chances are, you have heard of the term “assistive technology” (AT). However, there tends to often be confusion associated with AT in terms of what is actually considered assistive technology and who should be considered for assistive technology. First, let’s define AT… According to the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 (Public Law 100-407), an assistive technology means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, off-the-shelf, modified or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Now, let’s consider who needs AT… When Congress reauthorized IDEA in 1997, they added the provision that ALL students on IEPs must now be considered for assistive technology. This means that an overwhelmingly huge number of 3+ million students were now eligible to be considered for AT. Unfortunately, this was another underfunded mandate and is often overlooked or ignored. Why is it ignored? People think it costs a lot of money, nobody knows how to use what is already available to them, it’s too complicated, there are too many technical issues, or the teachers that did know how to use it have moved on and nobody else is interested or has the time for training.

Processing visual information or pairing visual information with auditory information, tends to be a much more effective strategy for children with autism. When we use AT with children with autism, we are providing the targeted information through their strongest processing area, therefore providing more efficient and effective programming. That said when working with students with ASD, various aspects of technology from “low” tech to “high” tech should be considered in every aspect of their educational programming.

When deciding on what mode of AT you will use, it is important to determine which visual representation system is best understood by the student. You will also need to consider in what contexts the student needs to access information and make the most effective and efficient programming decisions based on functionality and portability of the assistive technology in those settings. Some examples of visual systems include objects, real life photographs, realistic drawings, line drawings, and text. Each of these examples can be used with assorted modes (low tech, high tech, etc.) of technology, as long as the student can readily comprehend the visual information. Some children may need different visual representation systems in different situations. The skills being taught and individual student tendencies and characteristics associated with ASD, will likely determine what systems and technology you end up using or finding particularly effective.

Examples:

One child may need to use 3D objects for his visual schedule because the actual objects seem to provide the added information needed to guide him from one activity to the next. However, another child may have the same daily schedule, but will need line drawings because 3D objects are too distracting and he tends to focus on inconsequential details in real life photos.

A student who only needs a sticky note reminder to stay on task for homework at home, may also need a timer that can be pre-programmed at intermittent intervals to stay on task in the classroom at school.

Assistive technology devices can be grouped into three categories: low-tech, mid-tech, and high-tech. When exploring AT solutions for a student with autism, the team should first consider whether low-tech solutions can meet the needs of the student. In addition to low-tech solutions being more cost effective, these solutions tend to be the least intrusive and are almost transparent providing better generalization, more functionality, and often times a better quality of life (i.e. avoiding possible embarrassment for the student).

Various modes of technology strategies, commonly associated with working with children with autism, are defined with examples below:

“Low” Technology (”Light Tech”) – Visual support strategies that do not involve any electronic or battery operated device. Low tech solutions are typically low cost and easy to use and are often readily available in the classroom or home environment. Low tech strategies are often less complicated, usually smaller and lighter in weight and in size, and also simpler to make.

Examples: dry erase boards, reading frames, sticky notes, seat cushions, clipboards, manila file folders, photo albums, laminated pictures and/or symbols, highlighters, highlight tape, 3-ring binders, pencil grips, darker lines or raised lines on paper, color contrast paper, weighted pencils, graph paper, adaptive scissors, phone book for foot rest, etc.

“Mid” Technology – Battery operated devices or simple electronic devices requiring little training and advanced technology. Often they are fairly lightweight and quite portable, allowing the student to use them anywhere.

Examples: tape or digital recorders, electronic dictionaries or organizers, audio books, special lighting or acoustical treatments, amplification systems, adapted keyboards, audible word scanning devices, Language Master, overhead projectors, smartboards, timers, calculators, wrist watch timers, simple voice output devices (buttons, switches), etc.

“High” Technology – These are usually the more complex technological support strategies and also typically require more expensive equipment and more sophiscated training. When low and mid-tech solutions are not effective for the student, it may be necessary to consider high-tech options. However, remember that the most expensive solution may not be the best option for each student; each student requires individualized consideration and evaluation and what will work for one student may not work for the next student.

Examples: video camera systems, talking calculators, word processors, various software, scanners, reading pens, computers and adaptive hardware, complex voice output devices, alternative keyboards, mouse emulators, scanners, text-to-speech software, screen reading software, speech recognition software, augmentative communication devices, digital whiteboard devices, etc.

It’s no surprise that research in neuroscience has demonstrated that we all process information differently from one another.  With three primary brain functions in regards to learning and processing information, you can imagine the vast differences in how each individual student in just one particular classroom will absorb information.  Universal design for learning means using instructional tools, materials, and methods that remove the barriers to learning and thus, making it possible for all students to succeed. A universally-designed curriculum offers multiple means of representation (give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge), multiple means of expression (provide alternatives for learners to demonstrate what they know), and multiple means of engagement (tapping into interests, motivation, interests, etc.).  Technology can reduce the amount of effort required to implement the components of UDL  in the classroom, enabling educators to create lesson plans and transform curriculum in efficient and flexible ways to meet the various needs of all students.

January 9th, 2009

Assessment in Special Education


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Bill Working at DeskIt is sometimes difficult to make sense of all of the data that is collected on a child in a special education program.  The first issue is consistency and standardization.  There is no excepted assessment protocol that is used in ALL schools for ALL children, it varies immensely from school district to school district.  Another issue is that the data is often not presented to the families in a meaningful way and the assessment is often not directly tied to IEP goals, so at times, it is not clear what is being assessed or why.  Similarly, it is not always clear which assessments to use to get meaningful outcome data.

If your child does get assessed, the terminology in these reports can be daunting.  Here is a brief overview of some of the terms you may see:

* A raw score is almost always the number of items that the child answerred puzzleed correctly on the assessment.  By itself, this has no meaning if you are not familiar with the specific assessment.

* A standard score is one that has been calculated from the raw score to fit into a normal distribution.  In most cases, the mean is 100, and the standard deviation is 15.  In special education, children are often at extreme ends of the distribution (either way above or way below the mean) in areas of exceptionality (for instance, a child with autism will likely score below the mean in social communication).

* The z score is the number of standard deviations above and below the mean.  If a z score is -1.9, that means the child scored 1.9 standard deviations below the mean.

* Percentile rank is the percentage of scores in a particular group of people.  Percentile ranks range from 99th (highest) to 1st (lowest).  If your child has a percentile rank of 82, they did better than 82% of the population (could be their class or district, could be the general population for that age group, etc, depends on the assessment).

* Clark WritingThe age equivalent is estimate of the age level that matches how your child did on the assessment.  This is almost always shown in years and months.  If your child is 10 years old and receives an age equivalent score on a language assessment of 6 years, 2 months.  That means that your child’s language (as measured by that assessment) is similar to a typically developing child at the age of 6 years, 2 months.  This is probably one of the more useful pieces of data, as this can help guide your decisions for what content is most appropriate for teaching your child and building her language skills.

* The grade equivalent is similar to age equivalent, but by grade level, rather than a specific age.

* A report card often has a completely different set of scoring than standardized measures.  These vary so much, that it is impossible to review them all here.  The most common (with older kids) is A (highest grade), B, C (pass), D, or F (fail).  Younger grades often use things like S (satisfactory), E (excellent), U (unsatisfactory) or other types of grading.  Report cards are done at a state, district, or sometimes even school level (especially in private schools).  The report card shows how your child is doing compared to other children at that grade level.

* The IEP (see Manya’s Posting) is not really a report of how well the child is doing, but what needs to be worked on to make the child successful, so the IEP is not the outcome measure, per se, but the plan for improving the child’s skills.

TYPES OF ASSESSMENT

Intellectual, Educational:  The purpose of these assessments is to deblue puzzletermine the child’s overall, verbal, or non-language intellectual ability.  Skills that are typically measured include language skills, processing speed, memory, abstract thinking, planning, motor skills, spatial abilities, organization, social understanding and judgment, and common sense.  IQ scores are often (but not always) associated with these assessments.  IQ scores show a child’s intellectual ability compared to other children their age.  IQ scores are more stable for older children than for younger children and change from childhood to adulthood.  Many factors may contribute to IQ, so it is important to take them for what they are and to not make more of them than what they are.  IQ and academic achievement are highly correlated, but success in life is not as highly correlated with high IQs, and many researchers believe that success may relate more to social-emotional intelligence than to IQ.  An IQ score can be very helpful though in determining a child’s ability to do well in a mainstream classroom.  Here is a breakdown of IQ scores, the classification, and the percent included (this is taken from a table in the book THE SPECIAL EDUCATOR’S BOOK OF LISTS: 2nd EDITION by Roger Pierangelo, PhD (Wiley Publishers) on page 219) (great book, btw, I highly recommend it!):

IQ Range                Classification                           % Included

130 and over           Very superior                          2.2

120-129                  Superior                                 6.7

110-119                  High Average                          16.1

90-109                    Average                                 50.0

80-89                      Low Average                          16.1

70-79                      Borderline                               6.7

69 and below            Intellectually deficient               2.2

                               Mentally retarded

                               Developmentally delayed

Some of the most commonly used intelligence assessments include (list from the above referenced book - click on the link above to order the book from Amazon) (the book also gives a nice review of what is included in each of these assessments and the authors insights regarding benefits and weaknesses of each assessment):

1) The Wechsler Scales of Intelligence (WPPSI for Preschool; WISC for school age; WAIS for adults)

2) The Stanford Binet

3) Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (K-ABC)

4) Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test (KBIT)

5) Columbia Mental Maturity Scale (CMMS)

6) McCarthy Scales of Children’s Abilities

7) Slosson Intelligence Test

8) Comprehension Test of Nonverbal Intelligence (CTONI)

9) Woodcock-Johnson Test of Cognitive Ability (WJ)

10) Brigance Diagnostic Inventory of Basic Skills

11) Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement (KTEA)

12) Peabody Individual Achievement Test (PIAT)

13) Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT)

14) Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT)

15) Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement

Bill WritingThere are a few other measures that I have come across when working in schools and clinics that were not listed in the book:

16) The Leiter Non-Verbal Intelligence Scale

17) Developmental Profile 3 (DP-3)

18) Developmental Assessment of Young Children (DAYC)

19) Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales (RIAS)

20) Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test (UNIT)

21) The Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills (ABLLS)

 

Reading Assessments:  These assessments are excellent for determining a child’s grade level for reading and identifying strengths and limitations for program planning.

1) Gates-MacGinitie Silent Reading Test (GMRT)

2) Gray Oral Reading Test (GORT)

3) Durrell Analysis of Reading Difficulty (DARD)

4) Gates-McKillop-Horowitz Diagnostic Reading Tests

5) Gilmore Oral Reading Test

6) Slosson Oral Reading Test (SORT)

7) Spache Diagnostic Reading Scales

8) Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests (WRMT)

9) Test of Reading Comprehension (TORC)

10) Nelson-Denny Reading Test (NDRT)

 

Written Language: These assessments refer to the child’s ability to put torange puzzleheir thoughts down on paper and includes the motor act of handwriting and the cognitive ability to put thoughts into writing.

1) Picture Story Language Test (PSLT)

2) Test of Early Written Language (TEWL)

3) Test of Written Language (TOWL)

red pencilMath: These tests measure the child’s abilities to solve problems, interpret results, and apply math skills.

1) Key Math Diagnostic Arithmetic Test (KEY MATH)

2) Test of Early Mathematics Ability (TEMA)

3) Test of Mathematical Abilities (TOMA)

 

Problem Behaviors: These tests are used to assess the level of problem behaviors exhibited by a child and to measure progress from interventions targeted at reducing these behaviors.   

1) Behavioral Observations (this is the most commonly used measure - often done through a Functional Behavioral Analysis (FBA) on a specific behavior problem)

2) Interview Methods are often used to supplement behavioral observations and help the behavior analyst or psychologist get a better understanding of the environment and possible behavioral triggers surround a particular behavior - can also be used to diagnosis

3) Psychological Tests are administered by the school psychologist and are used to properly place the child in an appropriate classroom and to identify issues to work on with the child in his IEP.  These can include projective drawing, apperception tests, sentence completion tests, and rating scales.

 

Adaptive Behaviors are the life skills needed for the child to functionpurple puzzle in school, home, and in the community.  These include things like communication, health, safety, self-care, leisure, work, social understanding, fine and gross motor, functional academics, and community knowledge. Here are some popular assessments (also from book referenced above):

1) AAMR Adaptive Behavior Scale - Residential and Community

2) AAMR Adaptive Behavior Scale - School

3) Adaptive Behavior Evaluation Scale (ABES)

4) Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale (VABS)

 

Visual and Auditory Perception: These are extremely important measures for children who may have difficulty responding to the teaching materials typically available in classrooms and to qualify children for assistive technology or other tools to help give them access to the teaching materials.  These are typically administered by an occupational or speech therapist.

1) Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration (VMI)

2) Test of Gross-Motor Development (TGMD)

3) Bender Visual-Motor Gestalt Test (BVMGT)

4) Developmental Test of Visual Perception (DTVP)

5) Motor-Free Visual Perceptual Test (MVPT)

6) Goldman-Fristoe-Woodcock Test of Auditory Discrimination

7) Test of Auditory Perceptual Skills (TAPS)

8) Wepman Test of Auditory Discrimination (ADT)

9) Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitudes (DTLA)

10) Slingerland Screening Tests for Identifying Children with Specific Language Disability

 

DSCN0540.JPGEarly Childhood Assessments are developed specifically for children under the age of 5 years (often used with a new diagnosis).

1) Bayley Scales of Infant Development

2) Preschool Language Scale (PLS)

3) Metropolitan Readiness Tests (MRT)

4) Boehm Test of Basic Concepts (BTBC)

5) Bracken Basic Concept Scale (BBCS)

6) Preschool Evaluation Scale (PES)

7) Kindergarten Readiness Tests (KRT)

8) Batelle Developmental Inventory (BDI)

9) Communication and Symbolic Behaviors Scale (CSBS)

10) Mullen Scales of Early Learning

 

eraser 1Motor skills are often assessed to identify the need for an occupational therapist and to develop specific programs to help children with motor skill difficulties.  Gross motor skills include those that require larger movements (e.g. running, dancing, balance, etc.) and fine motor skills include those require more finger movements (e.g. writing, cutting, musical instruments, etc.).  Here are some assessments that are often used (from the book):

1) Milani-Comparetti Motor Development Test

2) Miller Assessment for Preschoolers (MAP)

3) Quick Neurological Screening Test (QNST)

4) Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT)

5) Purdue Perceptual Motor Survey (PPM)

 

computer boy.jpgAutism/Asperger Severity measurements are used to make an initial diagnosis, but area also used to confirm the child’s diagnosis at various points in their development.  Here are some of the measurements that I have used personally in my research, clinical, and education work:

1) Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS)

2) Gilliam Autism Rating Scale (GARS)

3) Gilliam Asperger’s Disorder Scale (GADS)

4) Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale (ADOS)

5) Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI)

6) Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT)

7) Asperger Syndrome Diagnostic Scales (ASDS)

8) Autism Screening Instrument for Educational Planning

9) Differential Assessment of Autism and Other Developmental Disorders

10) Pervasive Developmental Disorders Screening Test

 

There are also a great deal of language assessments thaaqua puzzlet are administered to identify speech, language disorders, and to identify speech-language and behavioral services that might be needed to help the child advance in their language and communication.  These assessments are extremely common with children who have an ASD diagnosis.  I am not a speech therapist, and this list is by no means comprehensive, but here are some of the language measurements that I have used or seen used by speech therapists:

1) Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test

2) Peabody Expressive Vocabulary Test

3) Receptive One-Word Vocabulary Test

4) Expressive One-Word Vocabulary Test

5) Assessment of Sound Awareness and Production (ASAP)

6) Hodson Computerized Analysis of Phonological Patterns (HCAPP)

7) Language Proficiency Test (LPT)

8) Lindamood Auditory Comprehension Test

9) Oral and Written Language Scales (OWLS)

10) Test for Auditory Comprehension of Language (TACL)

11) Test of Pragmatic Language (TOPL)

12) Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery

13) Boehm 3- Preschool

14) Boehm Test of Basic Concepts

15) Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF)

16) MacArthur Communication Development Inventories

17) Preschool Language Scale

18) Reynell Developmental Language Scales

19) Test of Early Language Development (TELD)

20) Test of Narrative Language (TNL)

21) Utah Test of Language Development

 

3 kids in wagonThere are not a great deal of assessments for testing social skills, but there are a few that I think are great to use with children with ASD:

1) Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ)

2) Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS)

3) Social Skills Rating System (SSRS)

4) Social-Communication, Emotional Regulation, Transactional Supports Assessments (SCERTS)

 

There you have it, a not so brief overview of assessment in special education.  If anyone knows of other assessments that they use in their professional work, or that have been used on their children, please share, particularly if you find that one has really helped you.  I am currently looking for good measBill Graduationurements for social skills, if you know of some, please let me know!

 

Happy New Year Everyone!!!

 

 

 

 

 

January 8th, 2009

Calling All IEP Participants… Some Tools for the Trade


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How do you know your IEP is a good one?  It’s simple, it’s on the child’s table, wrinkled, splattered with juice, it’s dog-fileseared with turned up corners and is coffee stained throughout it’s many pages.  These are the signs of hard work, daily lesson planning, ongoing documentation and evaluation, individualized instruction, effective and meaningful goals, dedicated teachers… And well, let’s face it, it’s what every parent wants for their child who’s participating in the special education programs in our public schools across the country.

An IEP is an Individual Education Plan, it is essentially a contract between the school and the parents of the child with special needs.  An IEP shapes the child’s education and guides delivery of support and services while also providing a system of checks and balances for all of the people involved in the child’s program.  Essentially the purpose of the IEP is to provide an individualized document that will structure and organize the programing for the child with autism or other special needs and will allow the entire team a way of determining if the student is making meaningful progress.

There is no doubt that the IEP is the most important document in Special Education.  To create an effective and meaningful IEP, the parents, teachers, other school staff, and often other outside service professionals must come together and look closely at the child’s unique and individual needs.  Each team member will contribute in some way their experience, knowledge, and committment to this particular child to design an educational plan that will allow the child, as much as possible, access to the general education curriculum while preparing the child for employment and independence to the greatest extent possible.  Without fail, the design and implementation of each student’s IEP requires ongoing teamwork and careful communication among all IEP team members.

The team needs to work together to make a plan that is easily understood by all of the child’s IEP team members and the people who are involved in working with the child on a regular basis, this would include the parents, the paras, and the even the substitute teachers.  Goals and objectives should be clearly outlined  and include data collection procedures so that the team can objectively measure the child’s progress.  The team needs to be careful to not write an IEP that is too complicated, long, overwhelming, limited, etc. for the people who are implementing it.  The IEP should be as clear and as concise as possible.  However, with it’s clarity and concise attributes, the IEP also needs to be as close to perfect as the team can possibly get it which does take a certain amount of time and detail.  All parties coming to the table to meet for the child’s IEP need to come with an open mind and be ready to negotiate and compromise.  Parents should know however, that if they are in disagreement about something that is suggested or written in the IEP, they need to speak up immediately and make sure their disagreement is noted.

IEP cycleServing the entire spectrum of autism is not easy to do in one classroom, but teachers everywhere are up to the challenge as long as they have the support and teamwork required to do so.  The individual needs of students on the spectrum are unique and can vary quite extensively from one child to another.  It’s not uncommon to see a child’s IEP state that he or she will have SLP services 2 times a week, OT services for 20 mintues each week, attend adapted PE one hour a week, participate in small group social skills twice a week for 20 minutes, play therapy sessions throughout the school year, home visits each month, and positive behavior support planning throughout the year and across all settings.  It’s also not uncommon to attend 10 IEP meetings in 2 years for the same child, while at the same time another child may only have 2 meetings across the entire preschool program.  What really makes a difference is how involved the parents can and want to be and how supported and resourceful the school is in providing effective and accountable programs for the children in the special education programs.

Students with autism take the term “individualized” to the greatest extent imaginable.  There is definitely no cookie cutter approach for designing an effective curriculum for a child with autism or any child with special needs.  Clearly, assessment and ongoing evaluation are critical in understanding what the child can and cannot do.  For the student with ASD, this likely means a great deal of time will be spent on the present levels of performance (PLOP) so that the team knows where the child currently is and what the next steps should look like for the child.

IEP Goal Recommendations for Teachers:

Lower functioning or younger children on the spectrumteacher

  • functional communication skills
  • play skills
  • social interaction skills
  • adaptive behavior, daily living, or self help skills
  • academic skills
  • behavior support plans

Higher functioning or older students with autism or Asperger Syndrome

  • social skills/friendship skills
  • pragmatic language and conversation skills
  • organizational skills
  • academic skills
  • indpendence skills
  • employability and vocational skills
  • self advocacy and determination skills
  • behavior support plans

Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP) - sometimes a box on the IEP is checked if the student’s behavior is “impeding learning for self or others”.  If this is checked off, then a separate document should be attached to the IEP and should lay out a very clear plan for dealing with challenging behavior.  Below are the essential components to a BIP.

  • description of the problem behavior
  • position statement regarding the function of the behavior
  • triggers, setting events, antecedents
  • prevention strategies
  • replacement behaviors
  • proactive instructional strategies
  • reactive consequence strategies
  • safety plans
  • long term prevention strategies
  • re-evaluation and on-going monitoring plans and schedules

IEP Meeting Recommendations for Parents:

Be preparedparents

  • have a copy of your child’s current IEP and current goals
  • provide a list of your child’s strengths and weaknesses
  • share goals you feel need to be addressed
  • communicate clearly your ideas of what you want for your child
  • ask for any test/assessment results before the meeting
  • bring hard copies of any new information or outside evaluations

Know your rights

  • read up on the current laws pertaining to what you are requesting of the school
  • investigate law cases and bring copies to the meeting, if possible provide before the meeting
  • read up on current research and recommendations published in peer reviewed journals and manuals, provide this information to your school team, they may not know!

Be an advocate for your child

  • understand and articulate what you feel is important for your child
  • if the IEP team says no to what you feel is a reasonable request, continue to work on it and take it one step further, continue until the team can reach an agreement
  • nobody knows your child the way you do, work hard with your school team to create an equal partnership - you are the expert on your child, they are the expert on teaching, an equal partnership between parents and teachers is beneficial to the child in so many ways.
  • as a last resort, when the IEP team just can’t find a way to come to an agreement on something you feel is very important, at least know ahead of time the process and further steps you can consider taking to ensure that your priorities for your child are not lost in the shuffle… starting with pre-mediation with an advocate, mediation, due process, etc.

parent teacher confCreating an equal partnership between parents and teachers is a critical component to developing a “good” IEP.  As much time and energy that goes into writing the IEP should also go into building positive and receptive relationships between the home and the school.  It is not a lot to ask that the teachers and the school administrators see the parents as an equal partner in this process and as an expert on autism and this particular student.  There is nothing more discouraging for a parent than to come to their child’s IEP meeting and the IEP is already written, very little input from the parent was considered, and being told at the onset of the meeting that “we only have 50 minutes.”  Likewise the parents should come to the meetings believing that the teachers have every best intention in providng effective instruction for their child and that the progress of that child is just as important to the teachers as it is to the parents.  Every teacher runs into a situation where no matter what they do, it will never be enough.  Excellent school to home communication prompted by the teachers is critical for facilitating active involvement of parents while at the same time it’s the parent’s job and responsibility in this partnership to become a knowledgeable advocate for their child.

Good IEPs, the ones that are dog-eared and coffee stained, are the ones that come from a delicate balance of parent and teacher involvement.  Open lines of communication are critical in creating and managing this delicate balance.  Parent and teacher partnerships are the key to a successful school year.

December 3rd, 2008

TeachTown Basics voted as one of the brightest ideas of 2008!


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The 2008 NCTI:  National Conference for Technology Innovators was sold out this year.  The National Center for Technology Innovation (NCTI) brings technology innovators, researchers, instructional and assistive technology vendors, philanthropists, policymakers, OSEP projects, and the media together to bring creativity, research, and efficacy to a fast paced, exciting two days.
Five outstanding teams of researchers and vendors were selected to examine the impact of innovative assistive technologies for students with special needs.
NCTI was delighted to announce that TeachTown Basics, a computer assisted intervention program for students with ASD, was voted by peers as one of the brightest ideas of 2008 at the NCTI Tech-Expo!  Dr. Christina Whalen and her team were excited to be a part of such an exciting event in Washington DC this year.
Bright Ideas WinnerAwarded to: Christina Whalen, TeachTown (vendor); Jennifer Symon, California State University, Los Angeles (researcher); and Connie Kasari, University of California, Los Angeles (researcher)
Efficacy of a Computer-Assisted Teaching Program for Children with Autism in a School Setting
Project Description: This team will test the effectiveness of the TeachTown software curriculum with the aim of positive gains in early language, cognition, and social behaviors among preschool and kindergarten students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

About Dr. Chris

Chris is a licensed psychologist and board certified behavior analyst specializing in autism and related disorders. She received her PhD at U.C. San Diego and did her post-doctoral fellowship at U.C.L.A. Chris is a Founder and Chief Science Officer at TeachTown.

Read more about Chris and our other authors.

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