Dynamic Assessment: The Answer to Moving Away from Standardized Tests

by Sarah Smith, M.S., CCC-SLP and Beth Burns, M.S., CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologists in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

Our most recent blog entry talked about the limitations of standardized tests.  Today, we’ll address the answer to the question:  “If I shouldn’t use a standardized test to determine presence of a language disorder, what do I do?”  In short, use dynamic assessment, which means test – teach – test.

Dynamic Assessment is the best way to eliminate the biases present within standardized assessments. As a contrast to a standardized assessment, dynamic assessment  shifts our consideration from do they know it… to can they learn it?

Can the student acquire new skills with the same effort as peers from similar backgrounds?  

Dynamic Assessment  is composed of a pretest, mediated learning experience, and a post test. Throughout the entire process we are evaluating whether the student can learn new skills with the same ease or effort as typically developing peers.  Dynamic assessment also gives us insight into how the student learns. The subjectivity within Dynamic Assessment means it is imperative for us as clinicians to develop our clinical opinions by knowing what normal is.  We also need to know how much instructional effort is needed for typical peers.  In other words, we need to have good clinical skills.

Language Samples incorporating Dynamic Assessment are the fastest and the best way to provide a qualitative look at a student’s language.

For detailed information on applying dynamic assessment — Check it out!

Fast Mapping Task Test — Check it out!

Non-Word Repetition Task– Check it out!

7 Problems with Standardized Speech-Language Tests

by Sarah Smith, M.S., CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

We’ve all heard it, we all know it… standardized assessments don’t adequately represent all of our learners. For this reason, we are required by North Carolina regulations to include a variety of assessments when identifying a disorder. Federally we are required, through IDEA 2004, to provide an evaluation free of culturally and racial biases.

Still, we like the numbers.  A student scores a 90 on the OWLS-II and we breathe a sigh of relief, “nope, no disorder.” It’s concrete, efficient, and easy but it might be wrong.

The Quick and Dirty about Standardized Assessments:

  1. The syntax and morphology of children acquiring English as a second language will have the same characteristics of children with speech language impairments.
    • Current Research tells us that performance on vocabulary assessments such as the PPVT and EVT is heavily affected by socioeconomic status, regardless of race.
  2. Vocabulary Bias : Vocabulary is entirely based on prior exposure
  3. Cultural biases exist in testing procedures, linguistic structures, and vocabulary.
  4. Assumes prior knowledge and determines whether the learner has acquired that knowledge.
  5. Static- right or wrong, disordered or typical.
  6. The CELF-5 ages (5-7) relies heavily on assessment of morphological endings
  7. Using standardized assessments to identify disorders leads to a disproportionate number of minority and ELL students being placed in special education.  
Static Assessments make it easy to misdiagnose a language difference as a language disorder.

Check out this link for in-depth test reviews!

Standardized assessment scores used to diagnose a disorder are only appropriate when : 

  • The student’s cultural and linguistic background is adequately represented in the normative sample
  • The student is only exposed to Standard American English.
  • No modifications in protocol
  • Test meets federal and NC regulations

 

Got Problem Behaviors? – Turn them into Communication

By Ashley Hudson, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

Every classroom has a system in place to manage student behavior.  Schools in Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools (CHCCS) implement Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS).  Some schools within CHCCS implement complementary approaches, such as Conscious Discipline, but what do you do when these approaches are not working for a student?

FUNCTIONAL COMMUNICATION

Functional communication is a method for understanding the communicative intent of problem behavior and finding an appropriate replacement for that behavior.  Functional communication teaches us that the primary function of communication, and therefore behavior, is to get things (e.g., attention, objects), or escape things (e.g., avoiding attention, avoiding work).

Central assumptions to this approach are that:

  • All problem behavior has a purpose for the person
  • Children can/should be taught how to communicate, and not just how to reduce undesired behaviors
  • A single behavior can have multiple purposes (e.g., escape demands, getting a preferred toy)
  • The goal of intervention is not solely to reduce undesirable behavior,  rather the goal is to change the environment, so that the student is able to communicate more effectively
  • Most communicative behavior serves as a means of requesting (e.g., attention, sensory)
  • Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or language disorders may lack the skills to request in a socially acceptable manner

VERBAL COMMUNICATION

Speech is not required for verbal communication, although it is the most common medium.  Verbal communication is a behavior that is communicative in nature.  In a child with a language impairment, such as a child with Autism, verbal communication may be not characterized by the use of speech. For example, rather than saying that he/she wants more time with the iPad, the child may fall on the floor when it is time to transition to a non-preferred task.  The Functional Communication model suggests that the child needs to be taught socially acceptable language to request more time with the iPad (e.g., “I want more time with the iPad”).

FUNCTIONAL COMMUNICATION MODEL

Environmental Events

Observable Behavior

Change in Environment

*Important note: This model also stresses that both positive and negative reinforcement increase behavior.

CONCLUSIONboy-with-backpack

The Functional Communication model states that behavior has communicative intent. It further states that it is imperative that the intent/function of behavior is determined so that socially appropriate communication (i.e., requests) can be increased, and problem-behavior decreased.

KEY IDEAS

  1. Consequences (i.e., desired outcomes) cause behavior, not antecedents
  2. Problem behavior is serving a purpose
  3. Use the purpose/intent of the behavior in context to teach appropriate communication
  4. Teach a child to tell you that they want/don’t want something (e.g., I need a break, I want more time with the iPad)  rather than focusing on compliance with a task demand

REFERENCES

  1. Travers, Jason, Turning Problem Behavior Into Effective Communication, ASHA Professional Development
  2. Travers, Jason.  GET THE MESSAGE! The Communicate Nature of Inappropriate Behavior in Learners with ASD. ASHA Presentation.

RESOURCES

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gk-si6X4FXY

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Quick Guide: Pragmatic Language

by Rena Dadolf, M.S., CCC-SLP and Theresa Menz, M.S., CCC-SLP

We’re hearing a lot these days about Pragmatic Language Disorders…

The first question many teachers and parents have is “What is Pragmatic Language?”

Pragmatics is the understanding and use of language in social situations – in other words, successfully having conversations with other people.

Pragmatic skills involve understanding and using nonverbal skills such as body language as well as what we say, how we say it, and the appropriateness of what we say.

Pragmatic skills are vital for communicating our personal thoughts, ideas and feelings. Children with pragmatic language weakness may misinterpret others’ communicative intent and have difficulty responding appropriately verbally or non-verbally. Conversation skills are often weak and children with this disorder may not engage in the back and forth fluid flow of questioning, answering, and commenting that comes so naturally to most of us.

Pragmatic Language Skills:

  1. Using language for different functions: greeting, informing, requesting
  2. Changing your language based on the needs of the person you are talking to:
    • Speaking differently in the library than on a playground
    • Giving background information
    • Talking differently to a baby than an adult
  3. Following Conversation Rules:
    • Taking turns in conversation
    • Staying on topic
  4. Rephrasing when misunderstood
  5. Using appropriate facial expressions and eye contact
  6. Understanding how to take another person’s perspective

While all children need to be taught these skills, children with pragmatic language weaknesses need explicit instruction involving these skills. The use of visual supports, practice, and role play are key. Contact your school’s speech-language pathologist to learn more!

How Do I Monitor Progress?

MTSS/RTI Tier 2: How Do I Keep Data?

By Jordan Lupton and Ruth Morgan

When students are not making adequate progress receiving core instruction, teachers or support staff supplement the core instruction with additional interventions.  This level of additional support is considered MTSS Tier 2.  These interventions are delivered in a small group format, and progress monitoring data is used to make adjustments to instruction and intervention.  

But what does that progress monitoring data look like?  

In addition to academic data collection tools embedded within programs like mClass and AIMsweb, other data methods can be helpful in keeping track of student progress.  Additional sources of data include: running records, reading logs, journals, observations, topic tests, etc.  

You can also create your own Google form or document to keep track of student data. Ruth Morgan, SLP at Ephesus Elementary, wrote about how to create Google forms and spreadsheets on her blog, Chapel Hill Snippets.  Check out her step-by-step instructions here.

If low-tech forms are more your style, design your own Google document table.  To make data collection quick and user-friendly, create your form with choices that can be circled. Consider the following example of a weekly data form for a writing intervention for three students:

interventiontable

Whatever method of data collection you choose, make sure you are being mindful of exactly what data you will need to help your students achieve their goals.  The goal is not to create extra work for yourself, but to inform your instruction and identify positive changes in student performance

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Teachers: Save Your Voices!

by  Mary Kent Hill, M.S., CCC-SLP, Delia Hudson, M.Ed., CCC-SLP and Kara VanHooser, M.S., CCC-SLP

What is vocal hygiene and why is it important?

  • Vocal hygiene is a term used to describe the habits and practices that support vocal health.
  • Vocal hygiene is important because the muscles used for speech age just as the other parts of our body age.  

How do I know if I demonstrate vocal abuse?

  • All of us abuse our voices sometimes. Some examples include:
    • Screaming or yelling
    • Prolonged talking
    • Throat clearing or coughing
    • Singing in your car/shower
    • Grunting while playing sports
    • Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
    • Consuming alcohol
    • Excessive whispering

How can I practice good vocal hygiene?

  • Drink lots of water and/or other non-caffeinated beverages per day.
    • Eight, 8 oz glasses of water will do the trick!
  • Avoid alcohol consumption
    • Alcohol dehydrates and causes a buildup of mucous that will eventually need to be cleared away
  • Decrease or eliminate habitual throat clearing
    • Try gargling with salt-water in the morning if you have a buildup of mucous.
  • Try to use a conversational level of speech
    • Face your speaker and try not to yell or whisper
  • Don’t smoke!
  • Avoid environmental irritants such as strong smells and allergens.
  • Avoid spicy food
  • Limit excessive talking and singing when your voice is hoarse or tired
  • Remember to breathe!

Sources:

http://www.entforyou.com/docs/Vocal%20Hygiene.pdf

The Matching Game: How to Pair Your Language to Meet A Student’s Developmental Level

Photo By Clementina – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11229108

Written by: Sarah Michaels, Heather Miller, Phyllis Norwood, Heather Petrusa, Amy Samuels

Have you ever asked a child a question or given directions only to be met with a blank stare?  You may have a child in your classroom with language that is 1-2 years below what is expected for kids that age.  Therefore, it is important that you know how to reduce the verbal demands so students understand and can respond to you at their level.  Here are eight suggestions for matching your language to meet students at their level:

  • Provide extended wait time.  Some kids need (an excruciating) 5-10+ seconds to respond.  Students may need time to process auditory/verbal input or formulate their response.  Wait and watch.
  • Give students advanced notice that they will be called on.  Let them know when their turn will be and what will be expected so they have time to formulate a response.
  • Say less!  Speak one word beyond the child’s ability.  If a child only uses single words (e.g., ball),  then speak in 2 word phrases (e.g., blue ball; ball please).  If a child is using phrases, then speak in simple sentences.  For kids using longer utterances, consider your vocabulary and syntax.  Re-phrase using simpler vocabulary and sentence structure.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat.   Repeat and rephrase your statements to give students time to process what you’ve said.  Also slow down and repeat instructions as needed.  Additionally, repeating and rephrasing what the child says helps to build comprehension and retention.
  • Provide fill-in cues.  Reduce the expectation for the student’s response (especially in large group settings).  Start the statement and let the child finish the sentence using 1-3 words.  For example, if you ask, “Where was the boy?” then say “The boy was ___” with the expectation that the student fills in “under” or “under the table.”
  • Use pictures and gestures.  Pictures help support expressive and receptive language.  They can reduce the need for a lot of verbal input and get to the point faster for some kids.  Some children process visual information better than auditory information.  Refer to pictures in books, use a picture schedule, wear small pictures on a lanyard for frequently used directions and routines (e.g., sit, listen, wash hands, line up, etc.).  Don’t worry about what the icon looks like (clipart, stock photos, Boardmaker, etc.), just be consistent with each image.
  • Give choices.  Provide verbal or picture choices to narrow the wide open field of responses to 2 or 3.
  • Remember to praise any response a student gives! Repeating their response also allows for additional processing and retention of information.

It’s important for you to know your students’ language levels and to know how to match your language to meet the child at their level.  For more information, talk to your school-based speech-language pathologist.  

Welcome Back to School

by Beth Burns

The speech-language pathologists have returned to school rested and refreshed.  They are already helping kids access their curricula to maximize communication in their classes.  While we have a few SLPs on maternity leave and a new face to our group, we also have moved to balance staff with workload.  Please look for the speech-language pathologist(s) in your child’s school.

We are excited to bring articles this year to help teachers, parents, and other speech-language pathologists.  We will also share blog posts, tweets, and Facebook posts that might be of interest.

There might even be some free materials!