communication challenges

When working with students who have specified expressive or receptive language deficits and other communication challenges, knowing how to select appropriate augmentative or alternative communication (AAC) devices is an important part of helping students overcome communication challenges. Understanding that the use of AAC often involves trial and error before finding what truly helps a student be successful is an important part of working with students with ASD.

Imagine that you are a teacher in a K-12 school, and you are starting a new school year. The students in the “Autism Programmatic Case Studies” are on your caseload for the year. Consider what you learned from the research you conducted as part of the Topic 2 “Communication Support Strategy Reference Guide” assignment and create a chart that recommends communication assessments and AAC that would be appropriate for each student. The chart should include the following:

  • Identify each student by name and summarize their language and/or communication challenges.
  • Select an appropriate communication assessment for each student and justify the selection. Remember that assessments should be selected based on the specific needs of each student.
  • Recommend appropriate AAC supports for each student and justify the selections.

Support the assignment with a minimum of three scholarly resources.

Autism Programmatic Case Studies

Thalia is an 8-year-old girl. She is attending an elementary school where she participates in mainly special education classroom. Thalia was diagnosed with autism at age 3. There are seven students in Thalia’s class, served by one teacher and one educational assistant. During the day, Thalia participates in group activities with same-age peers in an inclusive setting. She receives services from a speech-language therapist and an occupational therapist within the special education classroom setting.

Thalia’s most recent assessment at school was her triannual at age 6. The school district accepted her developmental pediatrician’s diagnosis for autism when Thalia enrolled in preschool at 3- years-old. During the triannual evaluation, the team used the Autism Spectrum Screening Questionnaire (ASSQ), the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF-4), and the Adaptive Behavior Assessment System (ABAS-3). All of the assessments were used to substantiate the severity of Thalia’s symptoms.

The ASSQ is scored using a T-score with scores at 40 or below considered low, 40-59 average, 60-64 slightly elevated, 65-69 elevated, and 70+ very elevated. Scores that are 65+ indicated that the behavior is affecting the student. Both the special education teacher and parent completed the ASSQ. In peer socialization, the teacher rated Thalia at 78 and the parent rated at 70. In adult socialization, the teacher rated Thalia at 78 and the parent rated at 65. For social/emotional reciprocity, both teacher and parent rated Thalia at 73. In atypical language, the teacher rated Thalia at 76 and the parent rated at 68. For stereotypy, the teacher rated Thalia at 71 and the parent at 70. Both raters agreed that behavioral rigidity is at 72. In sensory sensitivity, the teacher rated Thalia at 68 and the parent rated her at 75. For the final rating scale, attention, the teacher rated her Thalia at 74 and the parent rated her at 73.

The CELF-5 is scored using a scaled score (SS) with a median of 10 and standard deviation of 15. She was able to use her communication device to help her with the assessment. Thalia’s data showed she was able to follow simple directions with a standard score of 4. The remaining scores were all in the extremely low range with standard scores of 1.

The ABAS-3 data is presented with scaled scores (SS) with a median of 10 and standard deviation of 3. Thalia had extremely low communication (SS:2), low functional academics (SS:4), and low self-direction (SS:4). In the areas of leisure and socialization, Thalia has a scaled score of 2 for both. In self-care, Thalia has a SS of 3, health and safety an extremely low score (SS:2), school/home living is low with a SS of 4, and community use is extremely low at SS 1.


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