Dynamic Assessment: How Does it Work in the Real World of Preschool Evaluations?

dynamic evaluation

 

In a disability evaluation, we ask a child to point “to the triangle” or “to the author” as part of test developed to identify disorder.  An evaluator who uses this kind of test to identify disability must assume that all children being evaluated have had similar exposure to “triangle” and “author” including similar family, cultural, and educational experiences. It follows then, that if a child cannot identify “triangle” or “author” it is because that child has some kind of learning problem. But what if a child does not have a disability but simply did not have the same exposure to “triangle” or books as the majority of children his age? Dynamic assessment offers evaluators an approach to see whether a child can acquire new linguistic information from the environment. Here are some clinicians examples of how to translate the dynamic assessment research into their own disability evaluations, including some “dynamic” approaches to increase the accuracy of our preschool disability evaluations.

First, Let us consider nonword repetition tasks, one type of dynamic assessment. Nonword repetition tasks assess whether a child can hear, retain briefly, and then repeat nonsense syllables of varying lengths. Nonword repetition tasks give us insight into why a child may have a weak vocabulary. If the child has difficulty with nonword repetition tasks it may indicate a disordered ability to learn new words from the environment and will also affect the child’s ability to understand directors and spoken stories. Here are two modules analyzing videos of several children, both with and without language impairments, doing the same nonword repetition task. By seeing how different children of different abilities perform as they acquire the new words, clinicians acquire clinical judgment. Nonword repetition tasks are not classic dynamic assessment because there is no pre and post-test. But because we watch the child learning new syllables in front of us, it is dynamic rather than static.

Another dynamic approach is fast word mapping. In fast word mapping we evaluate whether a child can learn new words. Because the words are completely made up, no child has more or less experience with these words. In these videos of 4-year-olds, one child is typically developing, one child has low average to mildly delayed skills, and one child has mild to moderate delays. What is especially helpful with more dynamic approaches to assessment, we see a much greater range of information about a child’s skills, rather than simply did he identify the “triangle” or not?

A child’s cognitive skills, including the ability of children to describe cognitively challenging tasks, can also be seen through dynamic assessment. Here is an example of how a psychologist used dynamic assessment to evaluate the nonverbal cognitive skills of a 2 year 10 month old boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder (See 8:25 to 10:50). The psychologist described in his report what he saw as: Dynamic assessment demonstrated that George is intelligent and learns quickly. The evaluator showed George how to make a rubber duck fly into the air by placing the duck on the flat end of a spoon placed on the table and hitting the round end. George smiled and laughed and searched for the duck, although he did not make eye contact with the evaluator. George tried and had difficulty the first time, but after a second demonstration George was able to make the duck fly and seemed happy he made it happen.”

David’s dynamic assessment task reminds me of one that a great trilingual SLP, Barbara Dittman, showed me. She used the disappearing egg in the cup trick. Barbara would show the trick to the student and tell him how to do it. Then she would bring another person–a parent, teacher, or peer—and have the student do the trick and then explain to the person how to do it. Barbara learned about cognition and also about the student’s ability to explain a somewhat challenging task.

Recent articles demonstrate similar effectiveness of dynamic assessment in distinguishing bilingual preschoolers with and without disabilities. These dynamic assessment tasks for bilingual preschoolers include fast word mapping and a graduated prompting task with a novel word learning, semantic, and phonological awareness component.

Based on research going back several decades, the importance of dynamic assessment in accurate identifying a language disorder is well established. New studies continue to support its value. In addition to the videos on dynamic assessment and preschool assessment in general, the LEADERSproject.org has many resources available to anyone looking to sharpen their disability evaluation skills including test reviews, discussion of current law, regulations, and policies, and model evaluations.

Catherine J. Crowley, CCC-SLP, JD, PhD, Distinguished Senior Lecturer in speech-language pathology at Teachers College Columbia University, founded and directs the bilingual/multicultural program focus, the Bilingual Extension Institute, and the Bolivia and Ghana programs. An experienced attorney, Cate is working with NYCDOE on a multi-year project to improve the accuracy of disability evaluations. The LEADERSproject.org is a website dedicated to supporting quality clinical services and is funded by the Provost’s Office and several foundations.  Cate, an ASHA fellow, received the “2012 Humanitarian Award” from the National Council of Ghanaian Associations, and ASHA’s certificates for Contributions to Multicultural Affairs and for International Achievement.

Gone to Ghana 2013

market

George Odoi, our guide, is walking the Teachers College Columbia University group through the market showing us typical foods in a Ghanaian market outside of Cape Coast. Notice the straw hats the market women wear to protect themselves from the hot sun

I am on the faculty in the program of speech-language pathology (SLP) at Teachers College Columbia University. For the past six years (see 2012 and 2011 posts) I have been bringing our graduate students to Ghana to provide free services to Ghanaians with communication disabilities and to share knowledge and skills with the handful of SLPs in Ghana and with teachers, medical personnel, and people with and families of people with communication disabilities. Again this year I am bringing 20 of our graduate students, three licensed and certified SLPs, and a documentary filmmaker to create tutorials on our work. We work with the ENT Departments and the cleft palate teams at both KNUST and the University of Ghana’s Korle Bu hospital. (In March, Ghana’s Ambassador to the U.N., Ambassador Kanda, presented us with the 2012 Humanitarian Award from the National Council of Ghanaian Associations recognizing our work.)

Please follow our trip on our 2013 blog.

Catherine (Cate) Crowley, J.D., Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is a distinguished senior lecturer in the program of SLP at Teachers College Columbia University where she coordinates the bilingual/multicultural program focus and directs the Bilingual Extension Institute. In addition to the Ghana trip, Cate has led TC students to Bolivia for six years. Cate is a member of ASHA’s SIG 17 Global Issues in Communication Disorders.

Bolivia Bound 2012

 

For the seventh year, graduating speech-language pathology students from Teachers College Columbia University (TC) are in La Paz, Bolivia providing free speech and language services to children and adults with communication disorders. This year they are working in Camino, a school for the deaf, and CEREFE, a school for students with developmental disabilities. Follow the group as they witness children fitted with hearing aids hearing their mothers’ voices for the first time and as they lead a conference on AAC for special education teachers. Led by Dr. Cate Crowley with Dr. Sylvia Walters, Dr. Melissa Inniss, and Ms. Tanya Sanchez, the group meets at night for seminar discussions on developing develop sustainable practices in Bolivia and the student and supervisor’s own cultural competence which will inform their clinical practice when they return.

Here is the link to the 2012 blog so you can follow our travels.

 

Catherine (Cate) Crowley, J.D., Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is a distinguished senior lecturer in the program of SLP at Teachers College Columbia University where she coordinates the bilingual/multicultural program focus and directs the Bilingual Extension Institute. In addition to the Ghana trip, Cate has led TC students to Bolivia for six years. Cate is a member of ASHA’s SIG 17 Global Issues in Communication Disorders.

Gone to Ghana 2012

Editor’s note: I know we said that we were taking a week off, but I did want to share the following brief post from Catherine Crowley before she and her students take off for Ghana tomorrow.

For the fifth year, masters’ students in speech-language pathology from Teachers College Columbia University travel to Ghana to provide services and collaborate with our Ghanaian colleagues. I am the program director, Miriam Baigorri is clinical director, and Pamela Andres is clinical supervisor of the Ghana program. This year’s 18 students will work at the two major teaching hospitals with the ENT Departments, cleft palate and teams, and with the Division of Special Education of Ghana’s Ministry of Education. This year we will participate in a professional development retreat focusing on AAC for 54 special education teachers from throughout Ghana. In addition, Skye McLeod, a documentary film maker, is accompanying us to record the work.

We leave December 30th and return January 14, 2012. We invite you to join by following our 2012 blog.

Catherine (Cate) Crowley, J.D., Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is a distinguished senior lecturer in the program of SLP at Teachers College Columbia University where she coordinates the bilingual/multicultural program focus and directs the Bilingual Extension Institute. In addition to the Ghana trip, Cate has led TC students to Bolivia for six years. Cate is a member of ASHA’s SIG 17 Global Issues in Communication Disorders.

Bolivia Bound

Market in Bolivia

 

This month, for the sixth year in a row, 16 master’s students from Teachers College Columbia University and four ASHA-certified SLPs travel to La Paz, Bolivia to provide free services to children with disabilities. The non-native Spanish speakers arrive a week early (May 22) for intensive Spanish classes at Instituto Exclusivo in La Paz. The next weekend (May 28) the six native Spanish speaking students and four ASHA-certified SLPs arrive. Beginning on May 31 and for the next three weeks, the students provide assessment and intervention services and offer workshops for parents, teachers, PTs, and doctors. The SLP students and the supervisors participate in an academic seminar to integrate their experiences with readings on anthropology, religion, politics, and educational policy.

Please follow our trip blog for what we hope will be an extraordinary journey. We would especially like to hear your comments.

Catherine (Cate) Crowley, J.D., Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is a lecturer in the program of SLP at Teachers College Columbia University where she coordinates the bilingual/multicultural program focus and directs the Bilingual Extension Institute. Cate has led TC students to Bolivia each year for five years and to Ghana for the past three years. She is on the steering committee of ASHA’s SIG 17 Global Issues in Communication Disorders.

Gone to Ghana

Students in Ghana
Each year, masters’ students from the Teachers College Columbia University program in speech language pathology travel to Ghana to provide services and share skills and understanding with Ghanaian colleagues. I am the program director, Miriam Baigorri is clinical director, and Dorothy Leone is clinical supervisor of the Ghana program. Students work at the two major teaching hospitals within ENT, cleft palate, and craniofacial departments, and with the unit schools for students with disabilities.

We documented our trip by blogging live from Ghana, and rather than excerpt posts from that blog for ASHAsphere, we invite you to read all about our experiences on the trip blog.

Catherine (Cate) Crowley, J.D., Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is a lecturer in the program of SLP at Teachers College Columbia University where she coordinates the bilingual/multicultural program focus and directs the Bilingual Extension Institute. Cate has led TC students to Bolivia each year for five years and to Ghana for the past three years. She is on the steering committee of ASHA’s SIG 17 Global Issues in Communication Disorders.