Identifying WHAT to Teach: Assessment

As a team supporting a student with ASD, it is important to consider what skills the student needs to learn. To thoroughly determine this, the team will likely need to assess the student. Assessment can be formal or informal in order to determine skill deficits. The assessment process will yield information that can then be used to guide instruction and develop goals and objectives for the student's IEP.

When choosing an assessment, it is important to understand the characteristics and requirements of the assessment. Even within the category of Communication, assessments serve different purposes. It will be important for the team to ask the following questions to determine if the chosen assessment(s) meets the needs of the student and the team:

  1. Will the assessment yield objective and discrete data for goal development?
  2. Will the assessment provide information about the student's actual skills and knowledge?
  3. Will the assessment provide information about the student's functional performance?
  4. Will the assessment yield data that allows progress to be tracked?
  5. Is the assessment appropriate for the characteristics of the student?
  6. Is the assessment appropriate for the abilities of the student?
  7. Can the assessment be completed with accommodations or modifications that won't invalidate or change the intent of what was assessed?
  8. Is someone qualified and familiar with the student available to administer the assessment?
  9. Can the assessment be administered within a reasonable amount of time?

Formal Assessment

In order to provide the best, most targeted communication treatment program for a student with autism, a comprehensive formal assessment process in communication will likely need to be conducted. This formal assessment process should include a speech-language pathologist (SLP). A comprehensive formal assessment process will evaluate expressive communication, receptive communication, and pragmatic communication skills. This will aid the team in determining communication strengths and deficits. For more information, please see our formal assessments page.

Informal Assessment

Assessments provide information about the strengths and deficits of a student's communication abilities. However, formal assessments often take time to complete and often do not yield appropriate information that leads to meaningful goal development for the student with ASD.

When developing communication goals, the educational team can supplement formal assessment results with informal assessment. These include screeners or other tools such as interviews, inventories, or data collection measures.

At VCU-ACE, we have created two inventories that can be used to help teams know what to teach students with ASD: