Hello, and thank you for joining us today for the Social Competence Assessment webinar. My name is Amy Bixler Coffin and I am the Autism and Low Incidence Administrator at the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence. OCALI serves families, educators and professionals working with students with low incidence disabilities including autism, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairments, other health impairments and traumatic brain injury. OCALI's mission is to build state- and system-wide capacity to improve outcomes through leadership, training and professional development, technical assistance, collaboration and technology.
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Today's webinar is the second in the Social Competence Series. We started with an Overview of Social Competence, and today we will be discussing Assessment.
This webinar will allow participants to: define social competence; be able to explain the purpose of assessment as related to social competence; and be able to identify methods for assessing social competence.
So, let's review the definition you learned in the first webinar and remember what is meant by social competence. Social competence is the ability to interact successfully with peers and adults in a variety of situations and environments. An individual that possesses social competence is therefore able to participate in social situations. Social competence is more than simply learning or mastering discrete social skills (saying hello, how are you today or please and thank you). There are many things to know, remember, and react to. We all try to follow the social rules we have acquired; we are able to know that other people have thoughts and what those thoughts might be by listening to their language while watching their facial and body language; we can identify and understand our own emotions and the emotions of others, or we converse about them until we can gain understanding; we are able to enter different situations and know how to dress, talk, move, and behave.
Consider this quote from Michelle Winner, an author who writes about social thinking: "Social competence means one is able to adapt to an ever-changing landscape that takes into consideration the environment, the people in it, the thoughts, beliefs and needs of the individual and others who share the environment-whether or not they are in direct communication-as well as individual and collective history of knowledge and experience." Social interactions and behaviors are extremely complex, which is what makes social competence difficult to teach. Because social competence comes naturally to neurotypicals (which is a word used to describe those who do not have autism), it is not a natural process for neurotypicals to break down how to acquire social competency nor how to teach it. We use social abilities pretty much every waking moment-choosing what we will wear for the situation of the day; interpreting what is happening when watching TV or reading a book; and how we behave when we are with people. Those that are skilled in social competence keep mental records of people they know and how to interact with them, which is an intricate procedure to recall and react in appropriate ways. As you hear more about the characteristics of autism spectrum disorder later in this presentation, you will understand why social competence is extremely difficult for individuals on the spectrum.
Let's think about this definition: "Assessment is the practice of collecting and analyzing information from multiple and diverse sources in order to determine an individual's areas of strengths and/or specific areas of challenge. As such, it is often used to evaluate the individual's performance in relation to a set of standards to guide intervention and practice." We need to see assessment as coming from a variety of people and instruments. To build a program based on strengths, we need to be assessing the strengths and then looking at the areas of need. Instead of using the same program to teach all skills to all students, we need to use assessment to target what needs to be taught.
We also want to keep in mind that assessment includes both formal and informal assessment. And, it needs to be more than just a score. The assessor will be applying his/her interpretation and observations gathered during the assessment process to help develop the best program for an individual.
How do we find out what is keeping your student from being able to interact socially? Does your student play next to another child but not with the child? Does your child sit on the outside of the group and tend to be on the perimeter of activities? Does he or she have difficulty understanding social rules? How about special interests? Does your student have odd or intense interests? Does your student have difficulty taking turns? Does he appear to be confused or have difficulty responding or interpreting social interactions of others? These are just a few of the possibilities of how individuals on the autism spectrum struggle with social understanding and how to engage in social situations.
One point to remember is that intelligence does not necessarily mean a person has social intelligence. Many people are confused by individuals who speak well and seem to have good self-control, but don't understand social situations. Temple Grandin, an adult with autism who is a college professor and world-wide speaker on autism, describes how difficult it still is for her at 60+ years old to get the timing for entering a conversation with more than a couple of people. Being able to take the perspective of others and have conversation about something that is not a special interest can be difficult for individuals with autism. Part of the role for assessment is to identify the skills needed and be able to help those who are interacting with the individual to understand the difficulties he or she has with socialization, in light of the ability to do academic or career-related work.
Without assessment, it is virtually impossible to know what an individual's current level of functioning is in social competence areas. Each individual is unique and has strengths and challenges in different areas. Therefore, it is crucial to determine, through assessment, what the specific areas are to address when related to social competence. All good interventions begin with assessment. Always work from the strengths of the individual. Use appropriate assessment tools to find areas that need improvement and then identify specific skills to target. Assessments can then be used as follow-up to see how the person is progressing.
It is important for all assessment to be a team approach.... it is important to get the perspective of all team members working with an individual with an autism spectrum disorder. Each team member brings a different expertise to the experience and may work with the individual in a different environment.
When the assessment process begins, there can be several different formats. Assessors may conduct observations of social interactions and play in places the individual is comfortable and possibly in structured settings. Assessors may also conduct interviews with people who are very familiar with the individual to gain information about social interactions. Furthermore, there may be formal social rating scales that can be used with the individual, parent, and/or teacher/instructor.
Because individuals may have different experiences in different settings and because no one particular method of assessment is entirely reliable or complete, it is desirable to use a variety of sources when attempting to assess a person's social competence. Teacher, parent, peer, and self-reports may yield distinct but complementary information, and hence, by gathering multiple perspectives, a more complete picture of an individual's social strengths and needs can be obtained.
Interviews obtain information regarding social functioning in a short period of time. Interviews allow us to collect information from a variety of respondents who represent a number of different settings. Interviews allow evaluators to learn about the individual's strengths and areas of concern related to social competence. Interviews also provide a broad array of information.
These are some questions an evaluator may ask a parent/s to learn more about how their child socializes. The answers allow the evaluator to identify areas of need and specific objectives to focus on. These questions are from Scott Bellini's Parent interview of Social Functioning.
These are some questions an evaluator may ask a teacher to learn more about how their student socializes. The answers allow the evaluator to identify areas of need and specific objectives to focus on. These are from Scott Bellini's Teacher Interview of Social Functioning.
This slide has some questions an evaluator may ask the individual to learn more about how he/she socializes and his/her social competence. The answers allow the evaluator to identify areas of need and specific objectives to focus on. These are from Scott Bellini's Child Interview of Social Functioning.
Rating scales are indirect assessment tools that provide information around a variety of functioning areas. Rating scales can be administered to parents, teachers, staff, or the individual. Rating scales can provide information on social functioning, anxiety, self-awareness, or self-esteem.
These are a few of the different rating scales that are frequently used to assess social competence. Each instrument will be described in more detail on the following slides.
Here are a few more rating scales that will be described in the following slides.
Social Skills Improvement System also known as the SSIS is for individuals ages 3-18. It evaluates social skills, problem behaviors and academic competence. Teacher, parent and student forms help provide a comprehensive picture across school, home and community settings. Social Skills including Communication, Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, Empathy, Engagement, Self-Control; Problem behaviors including Externalizing, Bullying, Hyperactivity/Inattention, Internalizing, Autism Spectrum; and Academic competence including Reading Achievement, Math Achievement, Motivation to Learn.
Assessment of Social and Communication Skills for Children with Autism can take place using The Social Skills Checklist (Quill, 2000). It was designed for young children with Autism. Play (solitary and social) and group skills (including attending, waiting, turn-taking, and following group directions) are rated in a yes/no format by parents or professionals who know the student. Skills are listed in sequence based on level of difficulty.
Areas include: Inventory of Social and Communication Behavior which addresses Social Behavior, Communicative Behavior, Exploratory Behavior, Motivators; Core Skills Checklist which includes Nonverbal Social Interaction, Imitation, Organization; Social Skills Checklist which includes Play, Group Skills, Community Social Skills; Communication Skills Checklist which includes Basic Communicative Functions, Socio-emotional Skills, Basic Conversations Skills; and an Assessment Summary Sheet.
The Social Responsiveness Scale is also known as the SRS. It is a 65 item rating scale that measures the severity of autism spectrum symptoms as they occur in social settings. A parent or teacher can complete this in 15 to 20 minutes. Questions are rated on a 4-point Likert scale. It provides a clear picture of an individual's social impairments, assessing social awareness, social information processing, capacity for reciprocal social communication, social anxiety/avoidance, and autistic preoccupations and traits. It is appropriate for use with individuals from 4 to 18 years of age.
The Profile of Social Difficulty or POSD has a list of skills necessary for effective social interaction that are typically difficult for individuals with ASD. The Profile of Social Difficulty was designed to help identify gaps in skills that are necessary for successful social interaction. The scale provides evaluators with information on the challenges that a person faces in social situations and identifies gaps in skill development. The individualized profile that results from completing the POSD identifies the ease and difficulty of four pro-social behavior components: fundamental skills, social initiation skills, social response skills and getting along with others.
The Autism Social Skills Profile, also known as ASSP, provides a comprehensive measure of the social functioning of children and adolescents with ASD. It includes a broad range of social characteristics often exhibited by individuals with ASD and can be used with ages 6-17. The ASSP assists in identifying social skills deficits and measuring progress following intervention. It is not intended to be a diagnostic instrument. It takes 15 to 20 minutes to administer and may be completed by adults who are familiar with the child's functioning. The 49 items are rated on a Likert scale. The test yields three subscale scores - Social Reciprocity, Social Participation/Avoidance, and Detrimental Social Behaviors - as well as a total score of social functioning.
The Social Anxiety Scale for Children-Revised is a self-report of social anxiety consisting of three factors: fear of negative evaluation, social avoidance and distress in new situations, and social avoidance and distress-general. Anxiety levels for individuals on the spectrum need to be assessed and addressed to give them a better opportunity to learn and interact socially.
The BASC-2, or Behavior Assessment System for Children, provides a comprehensive set of rating scales. It is a comprehensive tool that provides information about a child's behaviors and emotions. It consists of rating scales and forms, such as the Parent Rating Scales (PRS), the Teacher Rating Scales (TRS), the Self-Report of Personality (SRP), Student Observation System (SOS), and Structured Developmental History (SDH). The TRS, PRS, and SOS measure the child's behavior patterns. The SRP can be used to assess the child's emotions and feelings. The BASC-2 may be used with children and adolescents ages 2 through 21 years.
The PDDBI, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder Behavior Inventory, is an age-normed instrument that assesses problem behaviors of children aged 2 to 12 with pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) (including classical Autism, Asperger Syndrome, PDD-NOS [pervasive developmental disorders-not otherwise specified], or childhood disintegrative disorder) as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV. Both teacher and parent rating forms are available with standard and extended formats. Rated by parents or teachers, the PDDBI measures adaptive and maladaptive behaviors and can be useful for interventions to improve adaptive social and language skills in social contexts.
The Ohio's Employability/Life Skills Assessment is a criterion-referenced checklist that can be used yearly, beginning at age 14, to assess a student's level of performance in 24 employability skill areas. As we discussed in webinar one, the ability to obtain and sustain employment is based on hard skills and on social competence. This instrument helps measure both.
Rubrics for Transition III for Autism Spectrum Students contains rubrics that define 63 researched based transition skills for students on the autism spectrum in the areas of verbal and nonverbal communication, social interaction, restrictive and repetitive patterns of behavior and miscellaneous skills. Information gained allows IEP teams to discuss a student's transition strengths and needs and identify a reasonable number of important transition priorities to address.
Observations should follow interviews and rating scales. Two traditional methods of observation are naturalistic and structured. The purpose of both is to observe the individual and how he/she socially performs across settings, persons and social contexts. This information can be used along with more formal assessment information.
A naturalistic observation involves observing and recording an individual's behavior in real-life social settings such as the playground or lunchroom. While observing in a naturalistic setting, an evaluator will see social behavior that is authentic and spontaneous. Naturalistic observations allow evaluators to observe and record various aspects of the individual's environment and how that individual behaves/interacts with other persons in that environment. Observing how the other persons interact with the targeted individual is also important to note.
Naturalistic observations are time consuming and may be difficult to schedule with school/work personnel, but give valuable information.
The OCALI Lending Library has many assessment tools available for loan to qualified assessment teams. The purpose of these tools is to provide a credentialed assessment team with the opportunity to examine and use various assessment tools for evaluation and educational identification of preschool and school-age youth with or suspected of having a disability. This service will help educators and other professionals "test drive" an assessment before purchasing or adopting it for their respective district or organization. Assessment tools are available for a three-week loan to any credentialed individual who resides in Ohio and who has a Lending Library account. For more information, please contact Vicki Knisely at 614-410-0753.
In summary, Assessment needs to be the first step in program development using multiple methods and assessors to determine strengths and needs.
If you would like more information, please contact me at the email address on the slide.
The next webinar in the Social Competence series will cover Play and Friendship.
If you have any questions related to today's webinar, please type your questions in the Chat window and we'll be glad to answer it for you.
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