Out of Range Testing for Severely Involved Students
Paula Stone,M.S.,C.C.C.-SLP wrote:
I would like to spend time discussing evaluation procedures for children who are severe to profound but chronologically are beyond the PLS 5.
Thank you for considering this important discussion.
Evaluating severely involved children who are below age ranges for test measures is extremely difficult. Being in the public schools we do run across this every so often. I can only tell you what I do. I’m not familiar with the Preschool Language Scale 5 but I do remember how the old PLS worked. I think you should be able to apply some of the information below. If there is anyone else out there who works in a setting where most of the kids are severe to profound in their development please add in your information. Especially if there are language scales out there that work well with severely language impaired children.
My experience is primarily with low functioning, low IQ kids. However, I found one past evaluation where I had to be very creative. School systems are often very limited with their variety of testing materials.
- In general, these evaluations will end up being very narrative. You will have to constantly watch the student’s behavior and manner of performance. You will have to comment on almost everything.
- You will not be able to report standard scores. If a test has age scores I will reluctantly report those. However, I will explain why standard scores can not be presented
- If the student is able to attend and point, I like to start with the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) and (EVT). I actually like all my students to have a PPVT and an EVT. I think these tests combined with manner of performance gives a lot of information. Plus there is a huge age range, making it easy to compare performance from year to year or every three years.
- You can use tests like the PLS or the Test of Auditory Comprehension of Language (TACL) as checklists, describing what the kids can and cannot do. I’ve actually taken those tests and used the tasks mentioned to make a checklist to monitor performance. It isn’t ideal, might even be wrong to do this but it works and you have something to measure.
- A Language Sample works very well. You can determine Mean Length of Utterance, sentence structure, omissions, intent, topic maintenance and a whole host of other things. You’re going to have to use your tape recorder (now iphone) and transcribe the language sample then comment. Honestly this is where your clinical skills are put to the test.
- If your student is non-verbal you will have to describe how the child responds to language stimuli. If they work with a communication board try to incorporate that method.
- You may want to include an observation or how discuss how the student works in therapy.
- Evaluation might have to take place over several shorter sessions.
- Adding in some sort of pragmatic profile scale is also a good idea. With our low kids we are always teaching social skills. With younger kids the Clinical Evaluation Language Functions (CELF) probably isn’t the best choice. I am sure there are others out there.
- Every single one of these evaluations are going to look different.
This might not be the best way to evaluate severely involved kids but I work with what I have. Most school systems will just be happy that they don’t have to hire out for a speech and language evaluation. If they insist on standards explain the situation to them. They have two options hire out or buy the right testing materials. I’ve read outside evaluations on severely involved kids, from both hospitals and private vendors and I’ve yet to see an evaluation that is significantly better than what I generate. It’s challenging that’s for sure and it takes a lot more work. I’d love to hear what you have to say on the subject.
Below are two sample evaluations, hope they help out.