The Assessment Process

When conducting assessments, professionals must be careful to consider the client's/patient's level of acculturation to the mainstream culture. It is important to determine how familiar and comfortable individuals are with social, interpersonal, academic, and testing practices in the United States. An appropriate evaluation may have to be completed over time

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004, schools can employ "early intervening" services to determine which children have intrinsic learning problems that cannot be explained on the basis of lack of experience with the tasks. Responsiveness to intervention (RTI) and dynamic assessment (DA) are both early intervening approaches that can be used to decrease unnecessary referral to special education for struggling children who can benefit from modified instructional techniques.

Use of a Standardized Assessment

Under most conditions, the use of standardized tests alone is not a comprehensive approach to determine whether an individual has a communication impairment. There can never be one-to-one translation for language items. Languages vary across a wide range, including order of acquisition of vocabulary, morphology, and syntactic structures.

No test can be completely culture-free and well-developed standardized tests are not available individuals in the United States who speak a language other than English or Spanish. One must recognize that most formal testing is unfamiliar to individuals who have not had exposure to the mainstream educational context. The culture of testing includes both nonverbal and verbal components.

Nonverbal aspects of the testing culture comprise the following:

  • perception of time
  • how one is expected to learn
  • attitudes toward display of abilities

Verbal aspects of the testing culture comprise the following:

  • functions of language
  • content of language
  • organization of the language

Test Accommodations and Modifications

Test accommodations should be differentiated from test modifications.

Test accommodations reflect minor adjustments made to the testing situation that do not compromise the test's standardized procedure. Depending on the individual and the nature of the test, you may choose to adapt administrative procedures to accommodate the student's needs.

It should be noted that test scores would be invalid for testing a client who is not reflected in the normative group for the test's standardization sample, even if the test were administered as instructed. However, these tests can provide valuable descriptive information about a client's abilities and limitations in the language of the test.

Test modifications alter the administration process upon which a test has been standardized, changing the difficulty level of the tasks, and further invalidate the norm-referenced scores. These modifications include the following:

  • rewording and providing additional test instructions other than those allowed when presenting trial items
  • providing additional cues or repeating stimuli on items that do not permit these
  • allowing extra time for responses on timed subtests
  • skipping items that are inappropriate for the student (e.g., items with which the client has had no experience)
  • asking the student for an explanation of correct or incorrect responses (when not standard procedure)
  • using alternate scoring rubrics

Gathering a Case History | Using Interpreters

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