Our Approach to
Assessing Your Child with ASD
Your efforts to help your child will be effective if your goals are clear and appropriate for your child. Sometimes children get stuck or “plateau” because the program does not have clear goals. In this type of situation, parents may have broad goals, such as helping their child to speak, interact with people, dress herself, increase affection, cooperate, play independently, care for his hygiene, attend school, etc. But the program does not reflect an understanding of the specific steps needed to achieve these bigger goals.
When this occurs, children may spend increased time in repetitive behaviors and resist formal sessions, parents/teachers may feel bored and unmotivated with the program and it becomes hard to know whether progress is being made.
Setting Appropriate Goals
It is essential to break bigger goals into small, clear, specific targets that will bring the child towards the larger goal, one step at a time. This allows us to create clear methods for making progress as well as to accurately assess how much progress is being made. Clarity of both goals and methods is often rewarding to both children and their teachers, so that everyone begins to feel more energy and motivation for the program.
In other situations, a program may have clear goals but they are not appropriate for that child at that time, because the child does not yet have the pre-requisite skills needed to reach the goal. In the development of language as well as social, play, self-help, motor and academic skills, certain foundations are necessary before other skills can be acquired. When this principle is not considered in program design, goals are often difficult or impossible to achieve and learning can become an exercise in frustration for both parent/teacher and child.
To avoid this, program goals must be set at the level of the child – neither too high nor too low. Goals must also address problem areas, including any behavior that compromises the child’s ability to learn. It is also important to identify key target areas that, if improved, will help your child communicate, socialize and become more competent in a variety of skills. In a very real sense, your work with your child will be only as good as your goals. The purpose of a thorough assessment is to identify appropriate and reachable teaching goals that will enable your child to achieve the necessary developmental milestones.
The Growing Minds Comprehensive and Full Distance Programs begin with a thorough assessment of the child. This specific information about your child is the basis for all of our recommendations. While most programs state that they include assessment of the child, some use assessment tools and methods that have no proven validity, including assessment tools that were created “in house” by one or two people with minimal formal education. While these may sometimes be helpful on an informal basis, we believe parents who are seeking (and paying for) the services of professionals deserve assessment tools with proven validity.
How Does a Growing Minds Assessment Work?
Our assessment begins with the reports of parents and our own careful observations of the child (through video and, if possible, in person) to evaluate a variety of key factors, including the child’s executive function skills, dyspraxia, motor skills and motor planning, eye-body coordination, visual targeting, speech apraxia, overall development, speech development, etc.
Depending on these initial observations of the child, we then use one or more of the following assessment tools listed below. Taken together, these tools reflect methods of assessment that have been developed and validated by hundreds of professionals working together for decades:
- ABLLS (Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills)
- HELP (Hawaii Early Learning Profile)
- The VB-MAPP (Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program).
When we are working with higher-functioning children who have a greater level of speech development, we use a number of tools to evaluate language development, including:
- The Listening Test
- TOLD (the Test of Language Development)
- TOPL (The Test of Pragmatic Language)
With older children, we may also use the BCP (Behavioral Characteristics Progression).