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A Novel Teacher Implemented Protocol to Assess Early Social Communication and Play Skills in Preschool Children with Autism

  • Author(s): Patterson, Stephanie Y.
  • Advisor(s): Kasari, Connie
  • et al.

Community practitioners have limited access to validated tools to assess foundational early social communication and play skills in order to select developmentally appropriate skill targets. The purpose of the current study is to assess the feasibility and validity of a novel teacher implemented brief assessment designed to capture the presence of preschool children's nonverbal social communication and play skills in classroom settings and facilitate teachers' selection of developmentally appropriate target skills for students. Three assessments were administered with 68 preschool students with autism including two well-established research protocols: the Early Social Communication Scale (ESCS: Mundy et al., 2003) and Structured Play Assessment (SPA: Ungerer & Sigman, 1981). Eight teaching professionals then administered a novel assessment protocol with their students. In addition students received two established research protocols one addressing early social communication skills and one targeting play. On average, teachers delivered the novel assessment with 86.57% fidelity (SD= 8.15%). Logistic regression was applied to examine the probability of agreement on children's skill targets from the brief assessment between teachers and the researcher. The probability of target agreement between each of the eight teachers and the researcher varied by skill domain including: JA (0.40-1.00), BR (0.30-1.00), and play skills (0.40-0.60). Agreement on JA and BR targets was not significantly different from expected proportions of 70% agreement and 30% disagreement (JA: p=0.22; BR: p=0.92) while play was significantly different and below expected proportions for agreement (χ2 (1)= 17.04, p<0.01). Further, agreement between researcher selected JA target skills from the brief assessment and targets obtained from the ESCS was not significantly different from expected proportions 70/30 (p=0.30) while agreement on BR targets was significantly different and below expected proportions (χ2 (1)= 1.07 p<0.01). Finally, agreement between the researcher selected play target and the target obtained from the SPA was not significantly different from the expected proportion of 70/30 (p=0.96) Further, findings indicate teachers learned to administer the assessment and often select accurate JA and BR target skills yet low agreement was found for play. Further training regarding developmental play levels may enhance teachers' accurate identification of play targets.

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