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Dr. Chris’ Autism Journal
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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!!!

 

 

 

 

 

The Hidden Curriculum and Unwritten Social Rules


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photo_BrendaSmithMyles.jpgI attended the Geneva Centre for Autism conference last week and saw many interesting presentations and one that I found inspiring was a talk by Brenda Smith Myles.  She is the author of a book called The Hidden Curriculum: Practical Solutions for Understanding Rules in Social Situations.  There are a great deal of good books on autism and several with pracial information for intervention.  Few of these books, and few interventions, focus on what is not obvious but what might be extremely important. 

thomas and dash.jpg“The hidden curriculum refers to the set of rules or guidelines that are often not directly taught but are assumed to be known (Garnett, 1984; Hemmings, 2000; Jackson, 1968; Kanpol, 1989)” (from Brenda’s book on page 5).  This curriculum includes things like unspoken rules, slang, metaphors, body language, etc.  Most of us pick up on these things instinctively but it is often difficult for those with autism and other special needs to do this.   

In her talk, Brenda spoke of obscure social situations such as using087_040_Lara_Neighbor.jpg a public restroom or shower, using an elevator, and everyday conversations.  To many of us, these are situations that we have become accustomed to and we accept the social rules, even though we may not always think about them or discuss them.  She gives practical tips for teaching these hidden social rules to children and to adults and stresses the importance of making these a part of everyday life.

templeartpic.gifAnother good resource for learning about the hidden rules in social situations is a book that I have finally started reading by Dr. Temple Grandin and Sean Barron (click here for a very interesting podcast with Sean) called Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism.  This insightful and intelligent book helps you see into the minds of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders and how they perceive these strange social situations and rules, and how they cope with these situations.  This book is helpful for professional, families, and those with a diagnosis themselves - fascinating book that I will probably recommend to many of my friends that are not in the field, it really demonstrates how different brains process information from various perspectives and that we can not take any knowledge for granted.000_51_Clark_reading.png

The only thing that is missing from this perspective is how to measure success, how to take data and assess what the child or adult has learned and what they have left to learn.  If anyone knows of a good hidden curriculum type of assessment or measurement, please post here, I would be very excited to take a look at something like that! 

B & E 3.JPGFrom looking at these 2 books and listenting to Brenda talk (and Temple on several occassions), I am reminded how important it is for us to look beyond the obvious in education.  This awareness of hidden information in our world can only advance the science of interventions and assist us with developing programs that result in real-world success.

Top Autism Treatments


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In a recent About: Autism Spectrum Disorders posting, the top 10 treatment approaches for autism were listed along with helpful links for each of these approaches.  The top 10 were determined by popularity, research, and most effective overall.

The top 10 listed were:100_0152.JPG

1) Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

2) Speech Therapy

3) Occupational Therapy

4) Social Skills TherapyB and Trish.jpg

5) Physical Therapy

6) Play Therapy

7) Behavior Therapy/Positive Behavior Support

8) Developmental TherapiesEl 1.jpg

9) Visually-based Therapies

10) Biomedical Therapies

I would like to see a similar list, in order, of those that are the most research-based and have evidence of effectiveness with the largest number of children with autism.  Organizations such as the National Autism Center are dedicated to coming up with good ways to make these kinds of lists and to develop rankings for treatment approaches which will be based on research and effectiveness for ASD.  This project is called the National Standards Project and the expert panel and conceptual reviewers include a prestigious group of autism researchers including several of our TeachTown science advisory board members including Dr. Ilene Schwartz, Dr. William Frea, and Dr. Aubyn Stahmer.

J computer.jpgI would also like to see more studies on technology and which programs are effective and which ones are not.  It won’t be long before Computer-Assisted Instruction is added to the list above, I just hope that developers, and perhaps more importantly, university researchers continue to conduct the necessary research to keep improving these programs.

**Please see comments from the author of the ABOUT blog, she makes some excellent comments and I completely agree with her!**

Book Review: The Social Skills Picture Book (J. Baker)


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4-rating

 

SocSkillsPict300.jpgThe Social Skills Picture Book: Teaching Play, Emotion, and Communication to Children with Autism is a book which uses pictures of real children to teach over 30 social skills such as conversation, manners, and empathy.  I use this book frequently with older or higher-functioning children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome.  Because children with autism often learn better using visual supports, books like this are great tools for making complex social interactions more salient.  I also really like that they used pictures of real children rather than cartoons or drawings.  This helps show peer modeling in a 2-D situation.  When I have used this book, I typically supplement it with video modeling and hands-on activities with peers.  I have never used the book on its own, nor do I think that was the intention of the authors.  I would strongly recommend this book to teachers, behavioral therapists, and speech therapists.  It can also be useful for parents who are trying to teach social understanding to their child, or to use when a play date comes over.

Mind Reading Computers


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autism.jpgResearchers are now working on technology to read the emotions of others by analyzing facial expressions. Although some people might have concerns about a computer doing such a thing, it could have very interesting treatment implications. Of course, most of us would not even think about computers REPLACING people in therapy, but if a computer could help people with autism to be more AWARE of their facial expressions, this could be very useful. The program in development is based on the work of Simonpr-cartoon-r.gif Baron-Cohen, the director of the Autism Research Centre in England, who is an expert in theory of mind and autism, check out some of the research he is doing, he does some incredible studies, including using technology such as DVDs and computers to teach people with autism. The researchers on this new project for a wearable emotion detector include Peter Robinson at Cambridge University and Rana el Kaliouby at MIT Here is the article from today’s headlines: Mind-Reading Computers Could Help Those With Autism By Jennifer LeClaire
TechNewsWorld
“Would we want computers that can react to our emotions? Such systems do raise ethical issues,” said Professor Peter Robinson of the Computer Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. “Imagine a computer that could pick the right emotional moment to try to sell you something.” British and U.S. scientists are developing an “emotionally aware” computer that can gauge an individual’s thoughts by analyzing facial expressions. The technology could have practical applications for people with autism, researchers said.
“People express their mental states all the time through facial expressions, vocal nuances and gestures,” said Professor Peter Robinson of the Computer Laboratory at the University of Cambridge in London. “We have built this ability into computers to make them emotionally aware.”

Theory of Mind

The ability to determine an individual’s mental state based on behavior and then use that information to guide one’s actions or predict those of others, is known as the “theory of the mind.” This is not a new field. It has been around since the 1970s, but it has recently gained attention in light of the needs of people with autism, who are thought to be “mind-blind.” That is, they find it difficult to interpret others’ emotions and feelings from facial expressions and other non-verbal cues. Robinson and his colleague, Rana el Kaliouby from the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, based their computer program on the latest research in the theory of mind by Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Center at Cambridge. Baron-Cohen’s research provided them with a taxonomy of facial expressions and the emotions they represent.

“Machine versus people testing of this system has shown the computer to be as accurate as the top 6 percent of people. But would we want computers that can react to our emotions? Such systems do raise ethical issues,” Robinson said. “Imagine a computer that could pick the right emotional moment to try to sell you something.”

AUTISM APPLICATIONS

There are, however, applications with clear benefits, including an emotional hearing aid to assist people with autism, usability testing for software, feedback for online teaching, and informing the animation of cartoon figures, Robinson noted.

The duo has been working since 2004 on a wearable system that helps people with Autism Spectrum Conditions and Asperger Syndrome with emotional-social understanding and mind reading functions. El Kaliouby is currently implementing the first prototype of the system at MIT’s Media Lab.

SIMULATING APPROPRIATE RESPONSES

Mary Bellis Waller, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and scientist at the Center for Addiction and Behavior Studies, is cheering on the researchers. Bellis has worked with autistic children and adults in her practice and is encouraged by progressive technologies designed to help autistics live a more normal life.

“Whatever helps autistics develop an awareness and sensitivity — and appropriate responses — to emotional cues, should be done,” Waller told TechNewsWorld. “And from all the research showing how plastic the brain is, the more anybody — including autistic people — practices appropriate responses, the better they get at it, the more natural it becomes to ‘act normal.’”

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