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Formal Assessments

There are many assessments that can be used with students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Different assessments will assess different areas. Communication is an area that it will be important for the educational team to assess in order to determine strengths and needs.

Remember, the evaluation results and reports that helped identify the student as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder may give the team valuable information about communication and social engagement that can help your team design the best intervention plan for the student. It is essential and best practice to look at all assessment results and to discuss them with your team in order to help the student in the most effective ways.

In this table, you will find information about common assessments in the area of Communication including the student's receptive language skills (the ability to understand spoken language), expressive language skills (ability to put words together to express thoughts cohesively) and/or pragmatic language skills (using verbal and nonverbal language appropriately in social situations). These assessments provide a wide range of information about the way your student is currently communicating and can help guide the team in identifying the most appropriate intervention plan. It is important to consider evaluation results from these tests and the student's most critical needs in order to determine where to begin and what skills should be targeted first.

Communication Assessment Table - Word | PDF

Considerations for Assessment

There are a number of challenges in trying to accurately assess communication abilities of a student with autism. Formal assessments can provide important information but may not yield the kind of information that leads to meaningful goal development. When determining whether to use formal or informal assessments, the following factors need to be considered:

Considerations for Assessment
The student might have difficulties understanding directions or how to respond. He could lack the communication skills to answer "yes" or "no."
A student with autism might lack motivation because she does not understand the importance of trying to do her best in a testing situation. A student with autism might suffer from anxiety and will not function well in an unfamiliar situation with an unfamiliar adult.
Distractibility and disorganization are often associated with autism and can make performing on cue difficult. The student's ability to respond and communicate can vary a great deal from one day to the next, making it difficult to get an accurate measure.
There can also be significant discrepancies from one skill to the next. A student with high functioning autism might appear to have a well-developed expressive vocabulary, while his receptive language skills are limited. The testing situation is different from everyday life. How the student interacts in the classroom or at home may not be reflected in the assessment setting, where interactions take place in a one-on-one, organized format.
During an assessment, the student is given more time to process language than during typical everyday exchanges. In the typical assessment, the clinician directs activities and communication. The ability to initiate communication (a common problem with autism) is often not evaluated.
An evaluation sometimes ignores critical nonverbal and pragmatic language skills.  

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