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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 3, Lesson 5

Suggested General Guidelines for Assessment of Communication

  1. Choose developmentally appropriate toys and materials
  2. Include the parent or primary caregiver to "break the ice".
  3. Begin the interaction with tasks that require little or no verbalization.
  4. Follow the child's lead in the interaction by maintaining the child's focus on objects or things that he is interested in.
  5. Let the child choose activities, topics, and materials that he is interested in. Be prepared to watch and interact when the child shows interest.

Strategies to Assess the Child at the Preverbal Stage

  1. Determine the child's primary means and the function of communication. In other words, how does the child communicate (babble, point, facial expressions) and function (hungry, wants an object, wants attention)?
  2. Note the word approximations that the infant/toddler is using. Note the sounds (phonemes), sound combinations, and word approximations attempted by the child.
  3. Note children's receptive language. What are the words that they seem to understand?
  4. Note turn-taking skills. If the child vocalizes and the caregiver imitates, does the child repeat, and then the caregiver continues?
  5. Does the child make eye contact with the caregiver when the caregiver speaks?
  6. Does the child make eye contact with the caregiver when the child is attempting to communicate?

Strategies to Assess the Child at the Verbal Stage

  1. What are some functions of communication (attention, requests, greeting, answering, protest, comments on object, comment on action, and acknowledgement)?
  2. Classify the semantic categories of the words that the child uses (people, objects, places, verbs, etc).
  3. Note the child's conversational skills (does the child take turns, initiate, maintain a topic).
  4. Note the context and who the child interacts with during conversation.
  5. Determine the semantic relations in the child's prelinguistic, one-word, two word, and multiword utterances.

Methods of Assessment of Communication Skills in Very Young Children

  • Standardized Tests (Evaluation) - There are numerous evaluation instruments for the purpose of determining eligibility for services pinpointing the language and communication area. The evaluation instruments designated by Early Steps have a communication subtest as part of the total battery. Thus it is possible to identify a delay in development in the language/communication area. Standardized instruments have their weaknesses, particularly for infants and toddlers. It is highly recommended that observational and informal assessment procedures be used in order to determine the most effective intervention contexts within everyday routines, activities and places.
  • Informal Assessment Instruments - such as criterion referenced instruments, developmental scales, and curriculum based assessment instruments such as the Hawaii Early Learning Profile (HELP) and the Assessment, Evaluation and Programming System (AEPS) may be helpful in identifying skills and areas for intervention planning. However, there are limits to these instruments in that professionals still need to broaden the assessment process to include observing the child's communication skills within their natural environments with the people they interact with routinely (Crais & Roberts).
  • Communication Sampling - Collection and analysis of communication sampling is one of the more in-depth methods of assessing children's communication skills. Sampling could determine how a child intentionally communicates (requests, protests, comments, seeks attention, answers, or acknowledges). The communication sample could determine the mean length utterance, or the typical form of communication (gesture, vocalization, etc.). Ideally, the sample would be audio or video recorded and then transcribed and analyzed.


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