Why We Need a New Assessment Tool

I served for fifteen years as a speech-language pathologist in the public schools where I learned the importance of accurate and sensitive assessment of culturally and linguistically diverse communication. But for my Ph.D. dissertation at Claremont Graduate University, I went into the homes of seven children who do not speak. Some of the children had been diagnosed with autism, others with cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, muscular dystrophy and developmental delays. In the homes, I observed the everyday interactions between family members and the children and interviewed the parents.

What I found startled me.

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Overview of The Protocol

The overview of the protocol is in chapter 1 of Augmentative and Assistive Communication with Children. The theory and the intervention plans support participation across environments and with communication partners.

The instrument consists of a total of sixteen pages. The first page, the title page, identifies the name of the child and the team members, all participants in the child's assessment and instruction. Of primary importance is child's name and date of birth. Children respond to those who use his/her name correctly throughout assessments and planning. The date of birth is an initial point of reference for the team. Noting the child's chronological age may suggest possible interest levels, not to mention when to celebrate his/her birthday. The team members begin with the names of family and caregivers, then educators, aides, and speech-language pathologists. The last space is to identify which team member is completing this protocol and when the protocol was completed...

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How can parents and professionals use the protocol?

Lesley and I expected speech language pathologists, educators, parents, siblings, caregivers across environments to pick up the protocol and use it with confidence. We point to the next more complex level from the beginning of our interaction, not stopping with one activity but building upon each new skill by accepting and providing access to technology and interaction consistently and supportively.

Who completes the instrument?

The instrument is designed so that parents, siblings, caregivers, educators, aides and speech-language pathologists each contribute to describing the everyday communication of children who cannot speak. When each person of a team completes the instrument, he/she can reflect on and offer unique insights. The team can obtain a comprehensive profile of the child's functional communication by sharing their experiences and insights about the child as drawn from a wide range of situations with a variety of people over a significant period of time. In the process of triangulation, all persons strengthen the assessment and instruction as they accurately describe, compare, and thus validate their real life observations of the child. This combined picture provides an integral key both to the child's current communication and to effective educational planning...

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Who Needs this Instrument?

This instrument was developed for:

    * Speech-Language Pathologists
    * Educators
    * Paraprofessionals (Classroom Aides)
    * Parents of children who cannot speak.

They need an instrument that brings together information from reliable sources so that together the children, their families, and their educators may develop more effective communication partnerships. First they need help talking about the way communication works naturally in the lives of children who are unable to use speech. Second they need to plan steps to talk with the children and coordinate teaching communication efforts at home and at school. The team member will have a much easier job in designing communication boards or programming electronic devices with voice output because he/she has this much-needed information. This instrument helps them find alternatives when important messages are confused. The initial practice can be more successful using the most motivating topics for each child.

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Hearing Them Into Voice (Spanish Version)

Hearing Them Into Voice has now been translated into Spanish!  It is called Escuchandolos En Voces and is available below in several different formats. 

For a Microsoft Word version of Escuchandolos en Voces click (here).

For an Adobe PDF version of Escuchandolos en Voces click (here). 

For a free Adobe PDF reader click (here).

For an HTML version of Escuchandolos en Voces click (here). 

Resource Toolkit for Parents, SLPs, and Teachers who work with Children and Adults Who Do Not Speak

Over the last several years, I've developed three tools to support those who work with children and adults who do not speak.  These tools can be used as part of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) in schools but are also designed to support education over a lifetime.  Originally presented at the 2007 Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference these tools are  now available for free by clicking the links below (they will download as Microsoft Word files): 

1.  I have organized the Hearing Them Into Voice protocol so that each description of the child’s (or adult's) communication fits into one of 3 meaningful communicative functions.  These functions are (1) social interaction, (2) sharing of information, and (3) expressing unique identities.  The Summary page and Especially for parents page remain the same.  This organization guides the discussion of communication partner response and measures.

2.  I have added a suggested Communication Partner Response Chart and Related Communication Goals for most of the descriptions of the child’s communication, as interpreted by parents, educators, and speech language pathologists on the Hearing Them Into Voice instrument.  These too are organized around the communication functions.  Goals are written for further instructional use of these messages including using augmentative and alternative communication.  Educational teams can prioritize the strengths of each communicative function and select meaningful goals that the student will communicate across environments.

3.  Finally a 4 page Measures of Functional Communication has been added.  Beginning with the baseline on the 1st descriptions on the Hearing Them into Voice instrument, the team members observe and record the child’s increase or decrease of each communication function 3 months to 1 year later.  Each communication function goal will be rated on a scale of -2, -1, 0, +1, +2.   -1 is baseline, -2 regression from goal, 0 achieving goal, +1 exceeding expectations and +2 consistently used across environments.  Social Interaction can be monitored by reviewing the specific indicators listed.  Descriptions of Sharing Information also yield an overall rating on the scale of -2 to +2.  Finally descriptions of a child Expressing His/Her Unique Identity are used to evaluate changes in this important communication function.  The Summary includes the scores on all three functions.  Based upon that information, the team selects the next, most important functional need for instruction and support.