by Julia Wynne, MA, CCC-SLP (Speech-Language Pathologist); NWACS Contributor
Assessment of expressive language skills for AAC users can be a challenge for AAC providers. Dynamic Assessment (DA) has been used as a means of assessing the expressive language skills of children who use speech to communicate for decades. The purpose of DA is to determine the individual’s readiness to learn and the level of support needed for the individual to achieve success. This month’s summary of a Binger, Kent-Walsh, and King article explores using Dynamic Assessment to measure early sentence production of 3- and 4-year-olds who use iPad applications to communicate.
As always, I will start by defining some key terms. I will then share the research question and why this information is vital to know. I will follow that with the authors' conclusions and some important takeaways so that we can apply this research to our AAC learners. Let’s get started!
Dynamic Assessment: the examiner uses various cues to facilitate the child’s performance, with a primary goal of determining whether or not the child is ready to learn a targeted skill
Expressive Language: the use of words, sentences, gestures, and symbols to convey meaning and messages to others
Probes: assessment of a particular concept or target, based on treatment
Static Assessment: an assessment during which behaviors are measured at a single point in time without assistance from the examiner
Zone of Proximal Development: the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can achieve with guidance and encouragement from a skilled partner
The question asked in this article: Is DA an appropriate method of assessment to contribute to planning intervention for young children who use AAC?
Let’s explore what this research means to us!
Dynamic assessment has a primary goal of determining whether a skill is within a child’s zone of proximal development. This concept, first introduced by Lev Vygotsky in the early 1900s, describes what a person can do without help and what he or she can achieve with guidance and encouragement from a skilled partner. DA can be contrasted with static assessment, during which behaviors are measured at one point in time without significant assistance from the examiner. DA may be a viable way to evaluate readiness for children using AAC to produce simple sentences using graphic symbols, as it has been used for children with significant speech and language impairments who do not use AAC. This research aims to evaluate the level of prompting needed for AAC users to produce 2-3 word utterances using a communication app and to determine if performance using DA can predict future performance in intervention. Developing assessment tools, such as DA, for children with complex communication needs is vital for practitioners, parents, and others who work with AAC users to determine readiness for beginning to target symbol combinations and which structures to address.
Ten participants were administered probes of three or four targeted structures using dynamic assessment for a total of 37 target items. Target structures were assessed using probes of 10 items each. 89% of targets were produced at least once during testing. 32 (86%) of these target items were mastered during the intervention or treatment phase. Least to most prompting was used to determine the child’s ability to modify performance for each targeted structure. The levels of prompting were as follows:
A. Elicitation question/prompt: "Tell me about this one."
B. Spoken and aided model of contrast target plus sentence completion: “Look lion is in the car.” Lion in car (aided model). “Now tell me about this one” (Pig in trashcan).
C. Spoken model plus elicitation cue: “See pig is under the trash, now you tell me.”
D. Direct model plus elicitation statement: “Tell me pig is under the trash," Pig under trash (aided model)
These prompts and cues were used for eliciting the following structures during the administration of DA probes:
Agent-action-object (e.g., “Pig chase cow”)
Entity-attribute (e.g., “Pig is happy”)
Entity-locative (e.g., “Pig under trash”)
Possessor-entity (e.g., “Pig plate”)
The 3-and-4-year-old children benefited from cues during DA and results of DA assessment procedures were significantly correlated with progress on further AAC intervention results.
The results should be interpreted with caution due to so few participants involved in the study. However, the study provided preliminary evidence of the predictive benefits of DA for language intervention with children requiring AAC. Using DA will help clinicians decide when children are ready to work on early syntax (sentence structure). Focusing on multiple structures (listed above) will help clinicians determine which ones will be important for children to work on at a given point in time. DA can be used to evaluate and re-evaluate certain skills with no limits on how many times it can be administered again (as is the case with many static assessments). Overall, the results of the study are promising for implementing DA and intervention for rule-based structures for young children using aided AAC.
Please comment with any thoughts or questions!
For the full article (open access): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5831088/
Images include Boardmaker PCS. The Picture Communication Symbols ©1981–2018 by Mayer-Johnson LLC. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Used with permission.
Binger C., Kent-Walsh J., & King M. (2017). Dynamic assessment for 3- and 4-year-old children who use augmentative and alternative communication: Evaluating expressive syntax. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1044/2017_JSLHR-L-15-0269
You can read other posts in our AACademics series by clicking HERE