Researchers find new way to assess communication of people with severe disabilities

(Medical Xpress) -- A team of researchers led by University of Kansas scientist Nancy Brady has developed a new way to assess the communication capability of individuals with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities who often communicate with gestures, body movements and vocalizations instead of spoken words. The study was published in the February 2012 American Journal of Speech Language Pathology.

The Communications Complexity Scale (CCS) is a tool for researchers and clinicians to measure the communication development of both children and adults with disabilities as diverse as , deaf-blindness and for the purposes of assessment and intervention.

“Understanding the communication status of individuals with severe intellectual and is difficult because they often communicate in ways that may not be readily recognized, even by ,” said Brady, who pioneered a communication assessment and intervention for children with deaf-blindness.

The CCS is based on the well-established continuum of “presymbolic” stages of communication development in typically developing children from birth, beginning with an infant crying or smiling, followed by eye gaze, gesturing and vocalizing directed at another person, to using “symbolic” communication, typically, .

These developmental changes have been studied and documented for individuals with different types of disabilities, according to Brady, and were incorporated into the CCS.

Children with ASD infrequently use gestures, for example, while those with Down syndrome often gesture to communicate. Individuals with deaf-blindness may show interest in objects but have difficulty showing shared interest with another person, a milestone in communication development, through eye gaze or gesturing.

A major goal of the CCS was a measure that would provide a summary score that would reflect an individual’s current status on the communications continuum, rather than a particular chronological age or other comparison group, a drawback of many existing measures.

Additionally, the measure was designed to be more sensitive to change over time as well as to an individual’s response to behavioral and medication interventions.

The CCS has 11 levels of behaviors associated with the stages of communication development. It was developed, tested and refined by two teams of researchers at the University of Kansas and a third at the University of Washington. The study focused on three groups of 178 participants who represented a variety of ages, diagnoses, exposure to languages (other than English), motor and sensory abilities, including ASD, Down syndrome and motor impairments. None could express more than 20 words of speech, signs or symbols.

The CCS scores were compared to those of standardized tests of language and were highly correlated. They were also compared to reports from family members and other caregivers. Scores from informant reports tended to place children at higher levels of communication than did the CCS scores.

The research was supported by grants from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Provided by University of Kansas

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Children with autism benefit from early, intensive therapy

Sep 28, 2011

A primary characteristic of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is impairments in social-communication skills. Children and adolescents with social-communication problems face difficulty understanding, interacting and relating ...

Deaf children use hands to invent own way of communicating

Feb 15, 2009

Deaf children are able to develop a language-like gesture system by making up hand signs and using homemade systems to increase their communication as they grow, just as children with conventional spoken language, research ...

Recommended for you

Global Ebola conference seeks end to W.Africa outbreak

3 hours ago

Leaders of Ebola-hit countries in west Africa will attend an international conference in Brussels Tuesday to mobilise a final push to end the outbreak and ensure the delivery of nearly $5 billion in aid pledges.

High prevalence of HCV in baby boomers presenting to ER

12 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The prevalence of unrecognized chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) is high among baby boomers presenting to the emergency department, according to a study published online Jan. 28 in Hepatology.

The hidden burden of dengue fever in West Africa

13 hours ago

Misdiagnosis of febrile illnesses as malaria is a continuing problem in Africa. A new study shows that in Ghana, dengue fever is circulating in urban areas and going undiagnosed. The authors of the study hope to use the findings ...

Teenager with stroke symptoms actually had Lyme disease

13 hours ago

A Swiss teenager, recently returned home from a discotheque, came to the emergency department with classic sudden symptoms of stroke, only to be diagnosed with Lyme disease. The highly unusual case presentation was published ...

Understanding lung disease in aboriginal Australians

15 hours ago

A new study has confirmed that Aboriginal Australians have low forced vital capacity—or the amount of air that can be forcibly exhaled from the lungs after taking the deepest breath possible. The finding may account for ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.