AT/AAC - addspedfunctionalassessment

Session 6
Assessing Communication Skills, Social Skills &
Assistive Technology Needs
Article Review# 2 Due Today
Assessment Tool Box Project & Presentations
Due Next Week: August 11th
Right now I am going to give you 30 minutes
to work with your group on this to work out
logistics and I will answer questions within
each group.
We may have more time at end of class.
Outcomes for today
Discuss Readings as a class!
Lecture on Communication Assessment
Activities on Communication Assessment
Lecture on Assistive Technology
• Social Skills Assessment
Discussion on Readings
1. Teaching Communication Skills (Ch 11)
2. Sigafoos et al. Ch 3-5
3. Using Technology to Enhance Teaching &
Learning (Ch 19)
“If I could not express myself, I would
become like the tree in the forest—the
one for which it does not matter if it
makes a sound when it comes crashing
down, because there is no one around
to hear it. Unfortunately, there are still
many silent fallen trees all around us if
we stop and look.”
Bob Williams, AAC user with
complex communication needs
(Williams, 2000, p. 250)
Communication Bill of Rights
Each person has a right to:
Request desired objects, actions, events, & people
Refuse undesired objects, etc.
Express personal preferences & feelings.
Be offered choices & alternatives.
Reject offered choices & alternatives.
Request & receive another person’s
• Ask for & receive info about changes in routine &
• Receive intervention to improve communication
From the National Joint Committee for the
Communicative Needs of Persons with Severe
Disabilities. (1992). Guidelines for meeting the
communication needs of persons with severe disabilities.
ASHA, 34(Suppl. 7), 2–3.
Communication Bill of Rights
Each person has a right to:
• Receive a response to any communication, whether
or not the responder can fill the request.
• Have access to augmentative and alternative
communication and other assistive technology
services & devices at all times.
• Be in environments that promote one’s
communication as a full partner with other people,
including peers.
• Be spoken to with respect & courtesy.
• Be spoken to directly and not spoken for or talked
about in 3rd person while present.
• Have clear, meaningful, and culturally &
linguistically appropriate communication.
“Communicative competence implies the
ability to meet the demands of participation
and communication within the culture” (p.
The adequacy of one’s communication is
based on having sufficient knowledge,
judgment, & skills needed to convey a
message to a communicative partner.
This complex behavior is learned within a
cultural environment
Linguistic Competence
Operational Competence
Social Competence
Strategic Competence
AAC user needs to perform in at least two
-Both native language & AAC codes need to be
-represent two different cultures
-AAC user by default is bicultural and has to learn
to function adequately in at least two
Technical skills needed to operate systems used by AAC
Skills include:
Mastery level may differ in different cultures
◦ Access, transmission, and operational skills needed to reach
mastery level in accuracy and speed in using a given system.
Evaluation of preferred operational methods and
transmission modes within a culture should occur within
an AAC assessment for a student
These preferences may be evaluated while assessing
student strengths (e.g., person/family-centered planning)
Achieved when the user has the knowledge,
judgment, and skill to understand and
adequately function within their cultural
Relates to knowledge of how to use language
(i.e., what terminology and forms are used, at
what times, and with what people)
◦ What behaviors are expected (at what times, with
whom, for what purposes)
◦ What is considered appropriate decorum and dress
in public & home
◦ How the culture perceives the world
AAC users must learn to use specific systems
or strategies of communication that often
differ from the verbal communication
systems of the family or community
AAC users may be highly dependent on
communication partners to infer meanings of
Strategies for communicating AND the
technology of communicating make up a
communication system
AAC users must achieve competence in both
Communication strategies are often
developed by the practitioners without
adequate knowledge of the AAC user’s
Providing a culturally acceptable strategic
system may enhance the strategic
competence while enabling the user
appropriate use of the chosen technology.
What can you do to ensure a student’s culture
is considered in the development of a
communication system?
Involve the student & family every step of the way
Don’t think of assessment “on” a student, but
rather “with” a student
Essential to understand student’s unique physical
and sensory skills
◦ How they see, hear, move
E.g., if a student has no functional vision and
does not use speech, then an alternate form of
expressive communication will probably
Use of objects, parts of objects, gestures, &
manual signs
Downing, J.E. (2005)Teaching Communication
Soto, G. & Zangari, C. (2009). Practically
Skills to Students with Severe Disabilities
Speaking: Language, Literacy, & Academic
Development for Students with AAC Needs.
Competence in a symbolic and language system
(e.g., spoken English, manual ASL)?
Formalized rules of word representation,
production, & use?
Breathing is the only real pre-requisite (Mirenda,
Necessary to define oneself
Share ideas, feelings
Demonstrate knowledge & skills
Perform job & daily tasks
Allows control over physical & social environment
Allows for acquiring new skills (strong correlation
between literacy & communication skill
development for students with severe disabilities;
Beukelman & Mirenda, 2005)
Allows for socially acceptable way to express
feelings of frustration
Allows for development of friendships
Better to err on the side of assuming
competence even if it is not there, rather than
err on the side of assuming incompetence
when competence is the case.
All individuals need to communicate
Students who demonstrate minimal
communication skills and are not adequately
expressing themselves.
Cognitive Referencing---Many professionals
still believe that for children with severe
intellectual challenges communication services
are irrelevant (Downing, 2005)—
Question should not be whether students will
benefit from communication intervention,
but how best to provide support
At least 2 people who understand each other
Form (i.e. a way to send the message)
Content (i.e., something to talk about)
Function: Reason/Purpose to communicate
Educational team members must ensure these
are addressed
Students in special education classrooms
tend to have interactions with adults but
limited interaction with other students
(Foreman et al., 2004)
What affects does this have on: learning
communication, and making friends?
Foreman et al., found that students with
disabilities in general education were
involved in significantly higher levels of
communication interactions than their
matched pair in special education
classrooms (2004).
Receptive Language:
◦ Understanding what people mean when they speak
to you.
Expressive Language
◦ Being able to speak/communicate so that others
understand you.
No one form of communication will
meet all needs or all social situations
Teaching a combination of different
modes is necessary
◦ Examples: Vocalization, body
movements, pointing, facial expressions,
nodding, gestures, use of object symbols,
picture symbols, manual signs
◦ Protesting situations
◦ Affirming situations
Expressing choices or
When there is nothing to say, there is no
communication (i.e. the awkward pause when
run out of things to say)
Individuals with severe disabilities need to
have access to a variety of objects, pictures,
and photos
◦ Articulation, Resonance, Voice, Fluency
◦ Phonology, Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics
Conversation Skills
◦ Turn taking, content, initiation, closure
Receptive language deficits
◦ Cannot recall sequences of ideas
presented orally
◦ Difficulty understanding humor,
sarcasm, figurative language
◦ May not understand questions
◦ Trouble following directions
◦ Cannot retain information presented
◦ Difficulty understanding compound
and complex sentences
Expressive Deficits
◦ Spoken language may include incorrect grammar or
◦ Limited use of vocabulary
◦ Frequent hesitations/can’t find right words
◦ Difficulty discussing abstract, temporal or spatial
◦ Jumps from topic to topic
◦ Afraid to ask questions, does not know what
questions to ask, does not no how to ask questions.
Standardized Tests will not provide the information
you need
Assessment driven by questions that need to be
answered to help benefit from communication
intervention—Team Effort
Interviews with Significant Others & EcologicalFunctional Assessment Process
•Summarize student
•Identify preferences Student
opportunities for
generalization &
•Graph learner progress
•Modify procedures as
•Expand plan as
Collect Data
Identify Potential
•Review Assessment Info
•Select appropriate
•Write communication goals
Steps in Ecological Assessment
Step 1: Plan with Student & Family
Step 2: Summarize what is known about
the student
Step 3: Encourage Self-Determination/
Assess Student Preferences
Step 4: Assess student’s instructional
Step 5: Develop ecological assessment
Current communication
Environmental conditions
Motor capabilities
Cognitive/linguistic capacities
Language capacities
Literacy capacities
Sensory/perceptual capacities
Receptive skills for a specific activity need to be
What does the student do to demonstrate that the
message has been received and understood?
Document what forms of communication seem to
be best understood
Any attempt by the student to start, maintain, or end a
communicative exchange should be noted.
How the students communicates (the form)—Skill level?
Why the student is communicating (function/intent)—
different forms of communication for different purposes?
What the student talks about (content)—information on
breadth of skills and accessibility?
See Communication Style Assessment—
Interview questions for
Practice using these interviews with a partner
based on your case study OR you may use a
student that you have or are working with.
Note your evaluation of using these interview
Communication Matrix by Charity Rowland
(designs to learn website)
Organized by communication function
List of behaviors
Not used, emerging or mastered
Uses observational techniques to analyze skill
demands of the natural environment and determine
how the student performs within the environment
Leads directly to intervention plan (Snell, 2002)
1. List Domains
2. List environments
3. List subenvironments
4. List activities
associated with each
sub environment
5. Task analyze each
activity to identify skills
6. Observe the
performance of the
activity to identify needs
1. Ask: Where does the student spend time?
(environment, sub-environment, activities)
2. Select Activity: (e.g., ordering food)
3. Observe: (for vocabulary used in activity)
 List Expressive Vocabulary used in the activity
 List Receptive Vocabulary used in the activity
4. Review listed words and determine which
words & skills need to be taught to the student.
Where does the student spend time?
◦ Environment: Community: McDonald’s
◦ Subenvironment: McDonald’s counter area
◦ Activities: Ordering food, waiting in line, socializing
in line
Select activity: Ordering Food
Observe vocabulary used in activity
◦ Expressive: “I want, hamburger, fish sandwich,
small, medium, large, coke, milkshake, yes/no,
that’s all, thank you, my order is wrong, I need,
extra ketchup, for here, please repeat that, how
◦ Receptive: “May I help you?, Is that all?, Here or to
go?, Your order will be ready soon?, I don’t
understand, Your total is_____”
Review listed words: which are above, below, and
at the student’s level. Which are within or outside
student’s experience, which are necessary for the
Complete the communication ecological
worksheet on your in-class activity.
Use only one activity in the school
environment (e.g., asking to play a game at
recess, participating in writing activity in
language arts class)
Steps in
Comm. Skills
Discrepancy Interv.
Performance Analysis
Receptive + or or
student gest
the step
Significant other interviews
Ecological Assessment
Direct observation in natural environments
Interrupted chain procedures
◦ Interrupt a routine that student has to complete
and see how student communicates
Assess student in interactions with other students
Provide direct assessments to determine if student
understands words, pictures, symbols, etc.
As we talked about last class, take an
inventory of the vocabulary used in the
settings student’s are in or will be going to.
Conversation inventories with same age peers
Could use audio recorder if allowed.
Standardized Tests may provide ageequivalencies in receptive & expressive
language, but often fail to recognize the
unique characteristics of students with severe
disabilities (Cress, 2002; Ross & Cress, 2006;
Snell, 2002).
Recommendation is interviewing significant
others (Bailey, Stoner, Parrette, & Angelo,
Analyze Communication Environment (Blackstone &
Hunt Bert, 2003; Downing, 2005); Use of Video
recordings (Suarez & Daniels, 2009)
Number of free publications
WATI Assessment- provides an overview of
the assistive technology consideration,
assessment and planning process
WATI AT Checklist in your book pg. 514-515
The SETT Framework, developed by Joy Zabala
(2005), is an organizational instrument to help
collaborative teams create student-centered,
environmentally useful, and tasks-focused tool
systems that foster the educational success of
students with disabilities.
SETT is an acronym for
Student, Environment, Task and Tools.
Key questions are asked in each area to in order
to guide teams in gathering data and
information to support the consideration and
implementation of appropriate inclusive
technologies. These questions provide a
framework and not a protocol, as they guide
the discussion and provide a vehicle for the
team to collaborate and form a consensus on
‘where to from here’.
STUDENT – Examples of guiding questions
concerning inclusive technologies:
•What are the student’s current abilities?
•What are the student’s special needs?
•What are the functional areas of concern?
•What are the other students doing that this student needs to be able to do?
•What does the student need to be able to do that is difficult or impossible to
accomplish independently at this time?
A useful resource to support these questions from a student point of view is
Bowser, G., & Reed, P. (2001). Hey Can I Try That? A Student Handbook for
Choosing and Using Assistive Technology. This is available from
• ENVIRONMENTS – Examples of guiding
questions concerning inclusive
• What activities take place in the environment?
• Where will the student participate—classroom, home, community,
• What is the physical arrangement?
• What activities do other students do that this student cannot
currently participate in?
• What assistive technology does the student have access to or
currently use?
 Work
 Recreation
 Community
 Education
 Home
Sensory Considerations (new)
New section as a subset of Student &
– Does this student have sensory deficits or
sensitivities that will impact his/her ability to …. ?
– Do the learning environment(s) impact the sensory
issues of the student?
Sensory Considerations
Visual (glare, color vs.
black & white, white
space between symbols,
Auditory (voice, volume,
button click)
Tactile (velcro, weight)
Personal space
Student specific
• Background noise
• Lighting (full spectrum
vs. flourescent)
• Physical space
• TASKS – Examples of guiding questions
concerning inclusive technologies:
• What specific tasks occur in the
• What activities is the student expected to
• What does success look like?
 Access to standard
 Education/Rehab
 Alternative Writing
 Recreation
 Organization
 Internet
• TOOLS – Examples of guiding questions
concerning inclusive technologies:
• Tools are devices and services—anything that is needed to help the
student participate and access learning programs.
• Are the tools being considered on a continuum from no/low to hightech?
• Are the tools student centered and task oriented and reflect the
student’s current needs?
• Are tools being considered because of their features that are
needed rather than brand names?
• What is the cognitive load required by the student to use the tool?
• What are the training requirements for the student, family and staff?
 Access to
AT Continuum
• Follow the
progression of
low tech, through
mid tech to high
tech when
selecting assistive
technology tools
Assistive Technology for
Low Tech Tools
AT Communication Continuum
Low Tech
Concrete Representations
Real Objects
– Calendar box
– Tangible Symbols
– Miniatures
– TOBIs (true object based icon)
AT Communication Continuum
Low Tech
Communication system with pictures,
symbols, letters &/or words
Assistive Technology for
Mid Tech Tools
AT Communication Continuum
Mid Tech
Simple Voice Output Devices
Hip Talk
AT Communication Continuum
Mid Tech
Speech Generating Device with levels
Tech series
Bluebird II
Message Mate
7 Level Communication Builder
Assistive Technology for
High Tech Tools
AT Communication Continuum
High Tech
Speech Generating Devices with
icon sequencing OR
Vantage Plus
Pathfinder Plus
SpringBoard Lite
AT Communication Continuum
High Tech
Speech Generating Devices with a
Dynamic Display
Eyegaze System
Dynavox V series & V-Max
AT Communication Continuum
High Tech
Text based device with speech synthesis
LightWriter SL40
Freedom LITE
PolyTABLET with
Solution Selection:
Tools & Strategies
• Review the list of potential tools
– Now is the time to evaluate for a match
• Student (abilities, difficulties, likes/dislikes)
• Environment (supports, obstacles)
• Tasks (what 1-2 things do you want the student
to do?)
– Prioritize selections
SETT- similar to ecological inventory
•Are the tools
being considered
on a continuum
from no/low to
•What are the
student’s current
•What activities
take place in the
•What specific
tasks occur in the
•What are the
student’s special
•What activities do
other students do
that this student
cannot currently
participate in?
•What activities is
the student
expected to do?
•What are the
functional areas of
•What assistive
technology does
the student have
access to or
currently use?
•Are the tools
student centered
and task oriented
and reflect the
student’s current
•What does
success look like? needs?
•What are the
requirements for
the student, family
and staff?
◦ This may mean that the device/system is not
meaningful or does not meet a communicative need
◦ Re-evaluate student’s opportunities to
◦ May need to manipulate the environment in such a
way that necessitates the student use the
device/system (Reichle, 1997; Snell, 2002)
◦ May be too difficult in comparison to other
communicative means…think of some unaided
means of communication (facial expressions,
gestures, etc.) OR different symbols, colors, etc.
Conduct person-centered ecological assessment
on communication
Team approach- teacher, SLP, parents
Consider contextual-fit
Consider: durability, ease of use, transportability,
flexibility, cultural sensitivity, cost of device, &
quality of speech (McCord & Soto, 2004; Mirenda,
Ability of student to access an AAC system need to
be assessed prior to purchasing system
Consider their home-language, culture, and
long-term vision for the student’s
Want to build system so that you can bridge
home and school vocabulary, language, etc.
May be an issue when device is not allowed to
go home.
Try to work with school to allow device to go
home. Parents may need to sign
responsibility for device.
Low-incidence funding
◦ (property of school)
Health Insurance (property of student)
Medicare (property of student)
Department of Rehabilitation
◦ Dependent on potential for employability w/ device
In Oregon, Educational Service District (ESD)
may have guidelines for this.
Developmental Vocabulary
◦ To encourage language & vocabulary growth
◦ Should include words or messages that encourage
students to use various language structures and
 E.g., more, no, there
◦ Variety of nouns, verbs, & adjectives to support
word combinations
 E.g., more car, OR no eat
◦ As vocabulary expands encourage use of
combinations of 2,3,4, or more
Substantive words (i.e., people, places, things)
Relational words (e.g., big, little)
Generic verbs (e.g., give, get, make)
Specific verbs (e.g., eat, drink, sleep)
Emotional state words (e.g., happy, scared)
Affirmation/negation words (e.g., yes, no, not)
Recurrence/discontinuation words (e.g., more, all gone)
Proper names for people first (Mike) and personal
pronouns (his) later
Single adjectives first (e.g., hot, dirty) & polar opposites
later (e.g., cold, clean)
Relevant colors
Relevant prepositions (e.g., on, over)
If limited sight word recognition…
Messages chosen from a functional rather
than developmental perspective
Single words or whole messages are selected
to meet individual communication needs.
◦ One or more symbols to represent messages
◦ Age/context/culturally appropriate.
Include some developmental vocabulary in
AAC systems
◦ Added whenever new environments or participation
opportunities are included
Words & messages that are commonly used
by a variety of individuals and occur very
Sources to identify core vocabulary items
◦ 1. Word lists based on the vocabulary-use patterns
of other individuals who successfully use AAC
systems (
◦ 2. Word lists based on the use patterns of the
specific individual
◦ 3. Word lists based on the performance of natural
speakers or writers in similar contexts.
Single-level Devices: deliver a limited
number of messages (about 20), simple to
program & operate (e.g. BIGmack)
Multi-level Devices: Up to thousands of
messages, more difficult to program,
multiple symbol displays to program
messages on two or more levels.
Comprehensive Devices: “dynamic
display” technology
Greetings & Farewells
◦ Age-appropriate vocabulary, mannerisms
◦ May not necessarily need a Speech Generated
Device (SGD)
Asking for Attention/Help
Comments of Approval & Rejection
Social Closeness
◦ Observe what typical students do to achieve this
◦ E.g., admiring another’s hairstyle, telling secrets
Communicative Skills specific to a class or an
[to Bobby] “You don't
have what they call "the
social skills." That's why
you never have any
friends, 'cept fo' yo'
 From Waterboy, 1998 starring
Adam Sandler
Besides communication skills, what other
factors affect a student’s development of
social skills?
Based on what we have talked about in this
class thus far, how would you go about
assessing the social skills of a student with
significant disabilities?
What types of interactions do they engage in?
(e.g., academic, social)
How do they establish
How do they gain membership & belonging?
What about romantic relationships?
What about relationships with adults?
7th grade at Chavez Middle School
Spanish is his first/home language
Can be quite shy when meeting someone for
the first time & it takes him a while to feel
comfortable around new people.
Has autism & tends to repeat a few favorite
phrases, avoids making eye contact, & holds
fast to specific routines.
When topics of video games, movies, or
comic books are brought up his entire
demeanor changes
What are Esaul’s strengths?
What are (or can) be barriers to Esaul
developing positive social relationships?
What process would you use to assess these
4th grader at North Elementary School.
Only knows a few of her classmates and often
feels alone at school.
Has moderate intellectual disabilities, a mild
hearing impairment, and a severe physical
disability for which she uses an electric
Alexis discovered she has a knack for
abstract painting that features vibrant colors
and bold lines.
What are Alexis’ strengths?
What are or can be barriers to Alexis
developing positive social relationships?
Rating scales- from those in environment
Teacher nomination & ranking◦ List of students who demonstrate a specific
behavioral characteristic to the greatest or least
extent in comparison to classmates
Self-report- student’s subjective perceptions
about own social competence
Direct behavioral observation-
Contextual approach◦ Assess the skills of students within the
◦ Identify skills that need to be taught
◦ Ensures meaningful social development
◦ Ensures the identification of skills that are relevant
to the student’s culture.
Easy answers:
It’s obvious….we all have them and know
what they are.
Defining social relationships is like defining
the meaning of life…it’s relative to the
More useful understanding of social
relationships, focused on interrelated aspects
of our social lives:
◦ Patterns of contact
◦ Subjective satisfaction
Social relationships are based on contact
patterns between two people
Example: 2 students might see each other in
class on a regular basis, or that contact might
be intermittent such as 2 students getting
together for lunch once a week.
Contact does not need to be direct for a
social relationship to exist (e.g., email)
Student’s social life can be understood as a
collection of interactions with other people.
based on: how
often 2 students
interact, how
long, what days,
patterns of
Social Support
What occurs
when they
Variation among students regarding what
constitutes a desirable social life.
Some individuals prefer to interact with a
small number of people, but interact
Large number of people, but interact less
There is no metric for what constitutes a
“good social life”
What would be the best way to define a “good
social life” for a student?
Social support- behaviors that are a part of social
◦ Emotional support, companionship, access to others, information,
material aid, decision making
◦ Goal should be to increase a student’s access to social support &
improve student’s ability to provide social support to others
Membership/belonging- sense of “connectedness” with
◦ Stable and something shared by individuals involved
◦ Circle of friends (Haring & Breen, 1992)
◦ Part of their school/community
Personal happiness-be aware of student’s perception of
the adequacy of his or her relationships (Strully & Strully,
What makes social relationships develop?
Still not specifically identified in research
General areas we will discuss relating to
social relationship development &
How relationships develop?
Balancing independence and interdependence?
Types of social interactions?
Variables that influence the course of a
Predictable pattern (Goldstein et al., 2001),
3 phases:
 1- Initial social encounters
◦ Introduced to students
◦ 55% of peers who are initially met go on to second stage
2-Preferred interaction contexts
3- Durable relationships
◦ Try out different activities with one another
◦ Make decisions of what form relationship will take
◦ Majority of relationships do not extend beyond this
Described as friendships
Most satisfactory of relationships
Sustained social interaction
Routine develops
Social relationships influenced by social competence
◦ Student’s ability to effectively interact and maintain social
Independently engage in set of behaviors= social
More independent students are in initiating, taking
turns, and providing reciprocal social support= more
likely to self-determine a happy social life
Caution: No “readiness” prerequisite to developing
Balance with interdependence: able to work
collaboratively with others to accomplish a common
goal (e.g., finding a role within a class
activity/situation…determine what to search,
controlling the mouse, etc. when searching the net)
Where we interact & what we do are closely
Schools have 3 broad contexts: class,
break/mealtimes, & brief interactions in other
Think about what types of social interactions
are “appropriate” during these times.
Identify the times & settings to be
Identify what aspects of a person’s social
life you want to assess.
Formal & informal information gathering Increasing
number of people that student meets?
Maintaining already established social relationships?
Summarize info & make recommendations
List the people with whom you interact
What areas of your social life could be improved?
◦ Is each person a friend or an acquaintance?
◦ How many times per week do you interact with each
◦ In what settings do you interact with each person?
◦ Does this person know any of the other people you
interact with?
◦ Would you
◦ Would you
◦ Would you
◦ Would you
◦ Would you
like more interactions with a particular
like to interact with this person in new
like to do different activities with this person?
prefer individual or group activities?
like to meet new people?
Barriers to Social
Suggested strategies
Access to general education (GE)
Facilitating inclusive placements
Access to peers without disabilities Peer supports
in GE settings
Classroom participation
Access to GE curriculum
Skills for facilitating interactions
Pivotal activity skills
Reciprocity skills
Teaching interdependence
Access to peers over time
Class scheduling
Alternative school interaction
Afterschool interaction

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