In gathering assessment information on young children using assistive technology like Sophie, the following principles of assessment are helpful:
- Use multiple sources of information (parents, teachers, therapists).
- Use multiple methods of gathering information (direct observations, family interviews, anecdotal records).
- Consider the child’s performance in different contexts and situations (different times of the day and week; in different activities throughout the day; in different settings across the day; alone, with peers, and with adults).
- Gather assessment information over multiple points of time.
- Determine if the practice or intervention was implemented in the way it was intended.
- Involve the entire team (family, teacher, therapists) in planning, conducting, and interpreting assessment results.
- Use assessment results to modify interventions if needed
Determine if the AT interventions were implemented
The team should first consider whether the AT interventions to support Sophie’s access and participation actually were implemented as planned. Ms. Mary and Holly can use a simple checklist along with the implementation plan to document what has been done such as how frequently they: (1) provide access to AT by making the communication boards available to Sophie, and (2) use teaching strategies like showing and telling to encourage Sophie’s skills in using AT to help her communicate. Ms. Mary can also note the effectiveness of each strategy used, and what the expectations were for Sophie when using the communication boards. This documentation of the implementation plan can be addressed using Handout 5.7: AT Implementation and Evaluation Checklist.
Assess child’s abilities and interest in using the AT
The team should consider how effective the child was at using the AT and his/her interest level in using the AT. Did the child use the AT spontaneously or only with adult prompting? Ms. Mary and Holly, with help from Karen, should also consider whether the contexts in which the AT was used were meaningful for Sophie. Was the AT used during activities that Sophie really enjoys and in which she wants to engage? And based on Sophie’s abilities, was she able to use the AT in meaningful and engaging ways?
Determine if the AT interventions were effective, make adjustments, and monitor progress
In addition, team members should consider whether standardized assessments as well as informal observations and checklists should be used to gather information to see if the AT interventions were effective. What things has Sophie done that will show that she has made progress? For example, is she initiating using the boards and communicating, or is she just responding to the adult when prompted? What specific assessment tools or methods (e.g., observations, checklists, and parent interviews) will be used to evaluate Sophie’s performance? The team should also work together to determine who should gather this information and how it will be used. After collecting information, adjustments should be made based on the results of the information gathered.
Summarize and use assessment results
Once assessments have been conducted, a key task will be to compile and summarize the information. A helpful method for compiling assessment information is to develop a portfolio—a collection of products, records, or other sources of evidence of a child’s learning over time. The team should meet to consider all of the assessment results as evidence of whether or not Sophie has met her learning goals. The team should consider whether all of the necessary assessment information has been gathered or whether additional information is needed. Team members also need to consider the assessment results in relation to their expectations for Sophie and make any needed adjustments. Teachers and therapists should involve families throughout the assessment process.