In a recent review, CARD researchers Evelyn Gould, Dr. Dennis Dixon, Dr. Adel Najdowski, Marlena Smith, and Dr. Jonathan Tarbox identified a present need for a comprehensive assessment designed to aid the selection of content for early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) programs for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). A significant part of designing effective EIBI programs is assessing a child’s strengths and weaknesses in order to identify appropriate skills to teach. For this reason, Evelyn Gould and colleagues reviewed assessments currently used in clinical settings to determine content for EIBI programs for children with ASD.
A total of 27 assessments were reviewed. The assessments were evaluated based on five criteria that an ideal assessment would possess, including:
- Does the assessment comprehensively address all areas of human functioning including social, motor, language, daily living, play, executive functions, social cognition, and academic skills?
- Does the assessment cover early childhood development (ages 6 months to 8 years)?
- Does the assessment consider behavior function as well as typography?
- Is the assessment directly linked to curricula or lesson plans?
- Can the assessment be used to track progress over time?
Results revealed four assessments that best meet the criteria outlined above. These assessments included the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program, the Brigance Diagnostic Inventory of Early Development-II, the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales—Second Edition, and the Brigance Diagnostic Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills—Revised. While these four instruments were identified as the strongest among the assessments reviewed, the overall pool of available assessments used to determine content for EIBI programs has serious limitations. For starters, not one of the assessments reviewed address all the developmental domains in which a child with ASD may show deficits. In addition, none of the assessments are directly linked to curricula or lesson plans.
With the current pool of available assessments, clinicians are left to run a battery of tests in order to identify target skills to include in treatment. Furthermore, to fill in the gaps, clinicians are likely to rely on clinical judgment derived from individual preference, experience, and expertise rather than a thorough assessment of the child’s development. Although extensive research has shown EIBI to be an effective treatment for ASD, research has also revealed great variability in program design and treatment effectiveness across service providers. Current clinical practices in assessment and program design likely account for much of the variability seen in the quality of EIBI services today.
I would like to offer a possible solution to current practices in assessment and EIBI program design. CARD has developed and recently launched Skills™, a web-based assessment, program design, and progress monitoring system. Skills provides a comprehensive assessment of all areas of child functioning that is directly linked to curricula within eight developmental domains including: social, motor, language, adaptive, play, executive functions, cognition, and academic skills. Among its many features, Skills provides nearly 4,000 lesson activities, teaching guides, printable worksheets, demonstration videos, and progress tracking charts. Skills is like no other tool available. With Skills, clinicians can finally rely on one tool to comprehensively assess child development, determine content for EIBI programs, and track progress overtime. If you would like to learn more about Skills visit: www.skillsforautism.com.
Gould, E., Dixon, D. R., Najdowski, A. C., Smith, M. N., & Tarbox, J. (in press). A review of assessments for determining the content of early intensive behavioral intervention programs for autism spectrum disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2011.01.012