- A Brief Explanation of Discrete Trial Training
- Supporting Students with Asperger's Syndrome Who Present Behavioral Challenges
- Applied Behavior Analysis: A Focus on Outcomes
- A Challenge to Reframe our Thinking About Behavior
- Concerning Consequences: What Do I Do When...?
- Consequences, Behavior, and My Birds
- Don't Forget About Self Management
- Ever Had a Crisis Kind of Day?
- Movement Difference: A Closer Look at the Possibilities
- Movement Differences Among Some People with Autism: an Impetus to Re-Examine Behavioral Issues
- Observing Behavior Using A-B-C Data
- Positive Behavior Supports Creating Meaningful Life Options for People with ASD
- Ten Steps Towards Supporting Appropriate Behavior
- The Challenge of Combining Competing Input in the Classroom
- "Your Attitude Just Might Be My Biggest Barrier"
- Applied Behavior Analysis: The Role of Task Analysis and Chaining
- Tips for Choosing a Provider for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
- What to Consider When Looking for a Qualified ABA Provider
- â€śIf They Could Only Tell Me What They Are Thinking.â€ť The Need for Augmentative Communication for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Assessment Day: Questions About the Communication Development of Your Young Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Aiding Comprehension of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders During One-on-One Interactions
- Can Social Pragmatic Skills Be Tested?
- Comprehension of the Message: Important Considerations for Following Directions
- First Steps and the Journey to a Diagnosis of ASD for a Child under Three
- Functional Categories of Delayed Echolalia
- Functional Categories of Immediate Echolalia
- Initial Guidelines for Developing a Communication Intervention Plan for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Significant Limitations in Communication Ability
- Long and Short Term Strategies for Reducing Specific Repetitive Questions
- Successfully Using PECS with Children with ASD
- Meeting the Challenge of Social Pragmatics with Students on the Autism Spectrum
- Opportunity to Communicate: A Crucial Aspect of Fostering Communication Development
- Reading with Your School-Age Child: Building Vocabulary One Word at a Time
- Social Communication and Language Characteristics Associated with High Functioning, Verbal Children and Adults with ASD
- The 21st Century Speech Language Pathologist and Integrated Services in Classrooms
- The High Functioning Person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder: A "Tourist" in His Native Country
- The Role of the School Speech Language Pathologist and the Student with Autism
- Using a Visual Support to Enhance WH Question
- Visual Resources for Enhancing Communication for Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Disabilities
- Visual Schedules and Choice Boards: Avoid Misinterpretation of their Primary Functions
- Visual Supports: Sources for Symbols for Receptive and Expressive Communication
- What is the Picture Exchange Communication System or PECS?
- Articles - Communication
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- Helping Your Child to Develop Communication Skills
- Evidence-Based Practices for Effective Communication and Social Intervention
- Important Predictors
- The Use of Technology in Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Collaborative Teaming
- Educational Programming
- Academic Supports for College Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Advice from Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder to Teachers Regarding Literacy Instruction
- Advice for Peer Tutors
- Applying the Ziggurat and CAPS Model in Your School District
- Aspects of Support for Learning
- A Young Adult's Guide to Deep Breathing as a Relaxation Technique: A Personalized Fact Sheet
- Can Schedule Usage Training Include Elements of Literacy Instruction?
- Clean Up Your Act! Creating an Organized Classroom Environment for Students on the Spectrum.
- Change is Good! Supporting Students on the Autism Spectrum when Introducing Novelty
- Classroom Choreography: The Art of Scheduling Staff and Students
- Complexities of Instructional Support
- Creating a Circle of Support
- Critical Features of Early Intervention: Merging Best Practices
- Developing Long Term Relationships Between School and Parents
- Early Intervention for Young Children on the Autism spectrum: Parentâ€™s Perspective
- Educating Students with Autism: Are There Differences in Placement?
- Establishing Long Term Goals: What Are We Hoping to Achieve
- For General Education Teachers: Helpful Questions to Ask About Students with ASD
- Get Engaged: Designing Instructional Activities to Help Students Stay On-Task
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- Home-School Communication
- "I Can Do It Myself!" Using Work Systems to Build Independence in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
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- Life After High School...So Now What
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- Lovaas Revisited: Should We Have Ever Left?
- Making the Most of Morning Meeting
- Motivating Students Who Have Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Moving from Preschool to Kindergarten: Planning for a Successful Transition and New Relationships
- Peer Support Programs
- Promoting the Educational Success of Students with Autism: The Role of the Parent-Staff Relationship
- Planning for Successful Transitions Across Grade Levels
- Practical Steps to Writing Individualized Education Program (IEP) Goals: And Writing Them Well
- Practical Recommendations for Utilizing a Range of Instructional Approaches in General Education Settings
- Recognizing Different Types of Readers with ASD
- Reframing Our Thinking and Getting to Know the Child
- Restricted Repertoires in Autism and What We Can Do About It
- School Cultures that Support Students Across the Autism Spectrum
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- Using Visual Schedules: A Guide for Parents
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- Structured Teaching Strategies: A Series
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- Video Self-Modeling How To and Examples
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- Selected Bibliography for Families of People within the Autism Spectrum
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- Selected Resources for Understanding and Supporting Siblings
- Setting the Stage for Parent-Professional Collaboration
- Siblings Perspectives: Some Guidelines for Parents
- What About the Dads?
- When Your Child is Diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- What to Do If You Suspect Your Son/Daughter Might Have an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- For Parents: Preparing for the School Year
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- General Information
- Assessment Processes for Autism Spectrum Disorders: Purpose and Procedures
- Autism Awareness Month: Facts and Tips for Working with Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
- Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder
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- Disability Information for Someone who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Customized Example
- Getting Started: Introducing Your Child to His or Her Diagnosis of Autism or Asperger Syndrome
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- For Physicians: Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders and Working with Schools
- Behavioral Issues and the Use of Social Stories
- How to â€śLose the Training Wheels:â€ť A New Way to Teach Bicycle Riding
- Living in Fear: Anxiety in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Local Community Resources to Enhance Activities
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- Making Camps Accessible for All
- Play in the Lives of Young Children with Autism
- Play Time: An Examination Of Play Intervention Strategies for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Social Activity Groups: Another Approach for Helping to Bridge the Friendship Gap
- Teaching Social Skills through Theatre
- The Collective Outcomes of School-Based Social Skill Interventions for Children on the Autism Spectrum
- The Value of Movement Activities for Young Children
- We All Need Exercise
- Finding a Friend in School
- Bullying and Students on the Autism Spectrum
- Incorporating Typical Peers Into the Social Learning of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Articles by Temple Grandin
- An Inside View of Autism
- Choosing the Right Job for People with Autism or Asperger's Syndrome
- Evaluating the Effects of Medication
- Genius May Be an Abnormality: Educating Students with Asperger's Syndrome, or High Functioning Autism
- Making the Transition from the World of School into the World of Work
- Social Problems: Understanding Emotions and Developing Talents
- Teaching Tips for Children and Adults with Autism
Standardized Tests and Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
Contributed by Rachel Loftin
What are standardized tests?
Standardized tests can include a variety of tasks designed to garner knowledge about an individual or group’s knowledge, abilities or other traits. These sets of tasks are carefully assessed to ensure that they validly and reliably measure given characteristics. Typically, this process involves administering the test to a sample of individuals who are representative of the population on whom the test will be used. Standardized tests may be administered individually or as a group.
A discussion of group administered standardized tests, such as the I-STEP, is certainly important but will not be addressed here. Students’ scores on these tests have less impact on intervention and programming decisions for individual students. Often, group administered tests serve only as a screening procedure for referring students for special education eligibility assessments or, more obviously, for assessing the achievement of the school as a whole. Group administered assessments are rarely adequate for assessing an individual student’s academic performance. Because they were developed with the needs of individuals with autism in mind, standardized assessments used to diagnose autism, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) (Lord, Rutter, DiLavore, & Risi, 2000), are also omitted from this discussion.
What are individually administered standardized tests?
Most state and local educational agencies require the use of individually administered standardized tests when making special education eligibility decisions. Selected tests may include intelligence tests (which yield IQ or ability scores), academic tests (which measure achievement), and personality tests (which yield emotional or behavioral information). It is the responsibility of the school psychologist to select which tests will best provide information to address the referral question. Once tests are selected, the school psychologist makes decisions about how to best administer the instrument and interpret the results. Standardized assessment tools have rigid administration guidelines. The obtained scores are only valid if these guidelines are followed.
What does this have to do with autism?
For students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), standardized assessments present a host of difficulties. When testing children with ASD, it may be difficult or impossible to adhere to the administration guidelines and still elicit the student’s best performance.
Tests that are highly dependent on language comprehension, for example, may be biased against students with ASD (Watson & Marcus, 1999). Specifically, tests that require lengthy verbal directions and verbal responses are almost always inappropriate. Even on the performance subtests, receptive language skills are required to understand the directions. The communication deficit faced by all students with ASD puts them at a disadvantage on tests dependent on receptive and expressive language use.
Other characteristics of Autism spectrum disorderss affect the standardized testing situation. In addition to language skill deficits, a student with ASD may lack other skills required in the testing situation. Students with ASD, regardless of level of functioning, possess deficits in social skills. Standardized tests require some level of social interaction. It may be difficult to perform well on an individually administered assessment without reciprocal social interaction skills. Atypical interests, repetitive behaviors, stereotypic behaviors, disruptive behaviors, and inattention may further complicate the testing situation.
Aren’t there any alternatives to standardized tests?
Yes, school psychologists may choose to administer nonverbal intelligence assessments to students with ASD, rather than altering the standardized administration procedures or foregoing the procedure all together. The Test of Nonverbal Intelligence, 3rd edition (TONI-3) is a valid and reliable alternative that does not require the examinee to read, write, speak, or listen. The Leiter International Performance Scale- Revised (Leiter-R; Roid & Miller, 1997) is another option. The Leiter-R, which does not require the student to use or to understand speech, has few timed items and will not penalize students for slow responses. While these instruments do minimize the communication difficulties that may interfere with obtaining the student’s true score, they do require social interaction skills, attention to task, and other appropriate test taking behaviors that may be difficult for students with ASD.
At times, it may be possible for the psychologist to forgo the use of standardized tests during the assessment process (i.e., when the school district does not require the use of tests). Observations, interactions with the student, his teachers and parents, and other alternative sources of information may provide valuable information about areas of strength and areas needing improvement that can help guide the intervention and programming process. Even when standardized assessments are used, these additional sources should be included in the assessment.
What modifications can psychologists make to accommodate students with ASD when standardized tests are used?
- Examiner: Allow time to meet the student before entering the testing session. This may help to alleviate some anxiety and will allow you to better assess needed modifications.
- Sensory: Consider the student’s sensory needs when conducting an assessment. For example, if he finds printed materials too visually stimulating, cover a portion so fewer problems are visible.
- Routine: Testing involves a significant disruption in the student’s school day. For students on the autism spectrum, such disruptions can be very distressing. Consider meeting with the student in advance of the testing session to introduce yourself and to explain the upcoming schedule change. If the student uses a schedule, work with the teacher to include the testing session on his daily itinerary.
- Environment: If possible, administer the tests in a familiar environment for the student. Minimize all distractions. Open window blinds, noisy heating vents, unusual smells, and other environmental distractions may have a significant impact on the student’s scores.
- Time: When possible, allow extra time for the student to finish items.
- Directions: Consider the auditory processing delays of students with ASD. Standardized directions are often lengthy and confusing. This can be particularly problematic for children with receptive language difficulties. Make verbal directions as clear and concise as possible. It may be useful to use visual directions or prompts or to allow the student to respond with gestures or signs.
- Motivation: To reduce the number of failures in a testing session, frequently intersperse new and challenging tasks with easier items. This may require administering items out of the standardized order or inserting nontest activities within subtests. It may also be helpful to use positive reinforcers to make the testing situation more motivating for the student.
- Behavior: Koegel, Koegel & Smith (1997) suggest assessing whether the student exhibits certain behavior that may interfere with the testing situation and then using positive reinforcers to reduce the rate of the interfering behavior. For a student who engaged in the obsessive, self-stimulatory verbal behavior of speaking in a “cartoon-like” voice, Koegel, Koegel and Smith allowed the voice only when responding to the test stimuli.
The preceding modifications will likely improve the student’s performance. When administration of various intelligence assessments is altered to accommodate for motivation and attention variables, some students who previously scored in the mentally retarded range with standard administration can score in the average or low-average range of cognitive functioning (Koegel, Koegel & Smith, 1997).
Employing such strategies will break the standardization of the assessment tool, and you cannot generate standard scores. The psychologist will, however, garner much information about the individual student’s strengths and areas for improvement-- information that will be crucial in making effective intervention and programming decisions.
Koegel, L.K., Koegel, R.L., & Smith, A. (1997). Variables related to differences in standardized test outcomes for children with ASD. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 27, 233-243.
Lord, C., Rutter, M., DiLavore, P.C. & Risi, S. (2000). Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.
Roid, G.H. & Miller, L.J. (1997). The Leiter International Performance Scale- Revised Edition. Lutz, Florida: Psychological Assessment Resources.
Watson, L.R. & Marcus, L.M. (1995). Diagnosis and assessment of preschool children. In E. Schopler & G.B. Mesibov (Eds.). Diagnosis and assessment in ASD. (pp.271-301). New York: Plenum Press.
Shriver, M.D., Allen, K.D. & Mathews, J.R. (1999). Effective assessment of the shared and unique characteristics of children with autism. School Psychology Review, 28, 538-558.