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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

Literacy

September 2019

Question:

What research is available on assessment tools to measure baseline academic skills and growth over time in students with moderate to severe autism spectrum disorders in grades 6–12?



Response:

Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and descriptive studies on assessment tools to measure baseline academic skills and growth over time in students with moderate to severe autism spectrum disorders in grades 6–12. For details on the databases and sources, keywords, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

Alt, M., & Humphrey Moreno, M. (2012). The effect of test presentation on children with autism spectrum disorders and neurotypical peers. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 43(2), 121–131. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ972191

From the ERIC abstract: “Purpose: The purpose of this experiment was to determine if there is alternate forms reliability for paper- and computer-administered standardized vocabulary tests. Another purpose was to determine whether the behavioral ratings of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) would improve during the computer-administered testing sessions secondary to a decreased need for social interaction. Method: Thirty-six school-age children (half with ASDs, half neurotypical [NT]) took 2 versions (i.e., paper vs. computer) of the Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test (EOWPVT-2000; Brownell, 2000a) and the Receptive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test (ROWPVT-2000; Brownell, 2000b). Order of presentation was counterbalanced across participants. Test sessions were videotaped, and randomly selected 1-min intervals were rated for behaviors. Standardized test scores and behavior ratings were compared for equivalence across the test presentation methods. Results: Standard scores for both versions of the tests were not significantly different for both groups of participants. There were no differences in behavioral ratings between the two methods of test presentation. Conclusion: Alternate forms reliability was found, thus expanding the options for testing for school-age populations. The use of computers had no effect on the behaviors of the children with ASDs. The ramifications of this finding for assessment and intervention for children with ASDs are discussed.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Assouline, S. G., Foley Nicpon, M., & Dockery, L. (2012). Predicting the academic achievement of gifted students with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(9), 1781–1789. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ977155

From the ERIC abstract: “We are not well informed regarding the ability-achievement relationship for twice-exceptional individuals (very high cognitive ability and a diagnosed disability, e.g., autism spectrum disorder [ASD]). The research question for this investigation (N = 59) focused on the predictability of achievement among variables related to ability and education in a twice-exceptional sample of students (cognitive ability of 120 [91st percentile], or above, and diagnosed with ASD). We determined that WISC-IV Working Memory and Processing Speed Indices were both significantly positively correlated with achievement in math, reading, and written language. WISC Perceptual Reasoning Index was uniquely predictive of Oral Language test scores. Unexpected findings were that ASD diagnosis, Verbal Comprehension Index, and forms of academic acceleration were not related to the dependent variables.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Bouck, E. C. (2017). Understanding participation: Secondary students with autism spectrum disorder and the accountability system. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 52(2), 132–143. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1150910

From the ERIC abstract: “All students are expected to participate in accountability systems and multiple options exist for students with disabilities, including taking the general large-scale assessment with and without accommodations and taking an alternate assessment. Using a secondary analysis of the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2), the researcher conducted frequency distributions, descriptive statistics, and Chi Square Tests of Association to understand the participation of secondary students with autism spectrum disorder in standardized assessments. The results indicate that the most frequent means secondary students with autism spectrum disorder participate in standardized assessments is via an alternate assessment, although individual (i.e., functional skills) and educational factors (e.g., time in general education setting) mediate. The researcher also found low rates of accommodations provided on standardized assessments. Additional research is needed regarding the participation of students with autism spectrum disorder in the accountability system, but the results of this study suggest a relationship between both a student’s time in general education and his/her functional skills and his/her type of participation in the accountability system.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Fleury, V. P., Hedges, S., Hume, K., Browder, D. M., Thompson, J. L., Fallin, K., et al. (2014). Addressing the academic needs of adolescents with autism spectrum disorder in secondary education. Remedial and Special Education, 35(2), 68–79. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED577938

From the ERIC abstract: “The number of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who enter secondary school settings and access the general education curriculum continues to grow. Many educators may find they are not prepared to adapt their instruction to meet both state standards and the diverse needs of the full spectrum individuals with ASD, which has implications for postsecondary success. In this article, we present an overview of current knowledge around academic instruction for this population, specifically (a) how characteristics associated with ASD can impact academic performance, (b) academic profiles of individuals with ASD across content areas, and (c) interventions that have been successful in improving academic outcomes for this population, including special considerations for those individuals who take alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards. We conclude by offering suggestions for future research and considerations for professional development.”

Kasari, C., Brady, N., Lord, C., & Tager-Flusberg, H. (2013). Assessing the minimally verbal school-aged child with autism spectrum disorder. Autism Research, 6(6), 479–493. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4139180/

From the abstract: “This paper addresses the issue of assessing communication, language, and associated cognitive and behavioral abilities of minimally verbal children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), presenting a summary of a year-long series of meetings held by a group of experts in the field of ASD and NIH staff. In this paper, our goals were to first define the population and then present general guidelines for optimizing assessment sessions for this challenging population. We then summarize the available measures that can be used across a variety of behavioral domains that are most directly relevant to developing language skills, including: oral motor skills, vocal repertoire, receptive and expressive language, imitation, intentional communication, play, social behavior, repetitive and sensory behaviors, special interests, atypical behavior and nonverbal cognition. We conclude with a discussion of some of the limitations in the available measures and highlight recommendations for future research in this area.”

Keen, D., Webster, A., & Ridley, G. (2016). How well are children with autism spectrum disorder doing academically at school? An overview of the literature. Autism, 20(3), 276–294. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1094331

From the ERIC abstract: “The academic achievement of individuals with autism spectrum disorder has received little attention from researchers despite the importance placed on this by schools, families and students with autism spectrum disorder. Investigating factors that lead to increased academic achievement thus would appear to be very important. A review of the literature was conducted to identify factors related to the academic achievement of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. A total of 19 studies were identified that met the inclusion criteria for the review. Results indicated that many individuals demonstrate specific areas of strength and weakness and there is a great deal of variability in general academic achievement across the autism spectrum. Adolescents and individuals with lower IQ scores were underrepresented, and few studies focused on environmental factors related to academic success. The importance of individualised assessments that profile the relative strengths and weaknesses of children and adolescents to aid in educational programming was highlighted. Further research on child-related and environmental factors that predict academic achievement is needed.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Kurth, J. A., & Mastergeorge, A. M. (2010). Academic and cognitive profiles of students with autism: Implications for classroom practice and placement. International Journal of Special Education, 25(2), 8–14. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ890580

From the ERIC abstract: “The rising incidence of autism and placement in general education necessitates a greater understanding of the impact of educational placement on academic achievement for adolescents with autism. In the present study, the academic profiles of adolescents with autism who have been educated in inclusive and self-contained settings are described using three measures: cognitive assessments, adaptive behavior, and academic achievement. Findings indicate significant between group differences (inclusion versus self-contained) in academic achievement measures. However, there were no significant differences in intelligence or adaptive behavior assessment scores for those adolescents education. Students who were included in general education obtained significantly higher scores on tests of achievement, including subtests measuring abstract and inferential skills; however, all students demonstrated emerging academic skills on standardized measures. The importance of academic inclusion for adolescents with autism is described.”

McIntyre, M. S., Solari, E. J., Gonzales, J. E., Solomon, M., Swain-Lerro, L. E., Novotny, S., et al. (2017). The scope and nature of reading comprehension impairments in higher functioning school-aged children with higher functioning autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47(9), 2838–2860. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED581233

From the ERIC abstract: “This study of 8-16-year-olds was designed to test the hypothesis that reading comprehension impairments are part of the social communication phenotype for many higher-functioning students with autism spectrum disorder (HFASD). Students with HFASD (n = 81) were compared to those with high attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptomatology (ADHD; n = 39), or typical development (TD; n = 44), on a comprehensive battery of oral language, word recognition, and reading comprehension measures. Results indicated that students with HFASD performed significantly lower on the majority of the reading and language tasks as compared to TD and ADHD groups. Structural equation models suggested that greater ASD symptomatology was related to poorer reading comprehension outcomes; further analyses suggested that this relation was mediated by oral language skills.”

Odom, S. L., Collet-Klingenberg, L., Rogers, S. J., & Hatton, D. D. (2010). Evidence-based practices in interventions for children and youth with autism spectrum disorders. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 54(4), 275–282. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ903737

From the ERIC abstract: “Evidence-based practices (EBPs) are the basis on which teachers and other service providers are required to design educational programs for learners with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). As part of their work with the National Professional Development Center (NPDC) on ASD, researchers developed a process for reviewing the research literature and established criteria for identifying EBPs. In their review, they identified 24 focused intervention practices having sufficient evidence. In this article, the authors describe procedures for selecting specific EBPs appropriate for addressing specific IEP goals for learners with ASD. The authors emphasize the importance of systematic implementation of practices.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Ozonoff, S., Goodlin-Jones, B. L., & Solomon, M. (2005). Evidence-based assessment of autism spectrum disorders in children and adolescents. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 34(3), 541–547. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ695490

From the ERIC abstract: “This article reviews evidence-based criteria that can guide practitioners in the selection, use, and interpretation of assessment tools for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). As Mash and Hunsley (2005) discuss in this special section, evidence-based assessment tools not only demonstrate adequate psychometric qualities, but also have relevance to the delivery of services to individuals with the disorder (see also Hayes, Nelson, & Jarrett, 1987). Thus, we use what is known about the symptoms, etiologies, developmental course, and outcome of ASD to evaluate the utility of particular assessment strategies and instruments for diagnosis, treatment planning and monitoring, and evaluation of outcome. The article begins with a review of relevant research on ASD. Next we provide an overview of the assessment process and some important issues that must be considered. We then describe the components of a core (minimum) assessment battery, followed by additional domains that might be considered in a more comprehensive assessment. Domains covered include core autism symptomatology, intelligence, language, adaptive behavior, neuropsychological functions, comorbid psychiatric illnesses, and contextual factors (e.g., parent well-being, family functioning, quality of life). We end with a discussion of how well the extant literature meets criteria for evidence-based assessments.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Plesa Skwerer, D., Jordan, S. E., Brukilacchio, B. H., & Tager-Flusberg, H. (2016). Comparing methods for assessing receptive language skills in minimally verbal children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Autism, 20(5), 591–604. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1101821

From the ERIC abstract: “This research addresses the challenges of assessing receptive language abilities in minimally verbal children with autism spectrum disorder by comparing several adapted measurement tools: a standardized direct assessment of receptive vocabulary (i.e. Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-4); caregiver report measures including scores on the Vineland-II Communication domain and a vocabulary questionnaire consisting of a list of words ranging from simple, developmentally early, to more advanced words expected to be understood by at least some older children and adolescents; an eye-tracking test of word comprehension, using a word-image pair matching paradigm similar to that often used in studies of infant language acquisition; and a computerized assessment using a touch screen for directly measuring word comprehension with the same stimuli used in the eye-tracking experiment. Results of this multiple-method approach revealed significant heterogeneity in receptive language abilities across participants and across assessment methods. Our findings underscore the need to find individualized approaches for capturing the potential for language comprehension of minimally verbal children with autism spectrum disorder who remain otherwise untestable, using several types of assessment that may include methods based on eye-tracking or touch-screen responding.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Santhanam, S. P., & Hewitt, L. E. (2015). Evidence-based assessment and autism spectrum disorders: A scoping review. Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention, 9(4), 140–181. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17489539.2016.1153814

From the abstract: “Assessment of language and communication in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is a critical element in developing appropriate and effective interventions and supports. While there is a large literature on diagnosis of autism, the information available to guide clinical practice for communication and language specifically is sparser. In this scoping review, we sought to identify research articles and critical reviews dealing with communication assessment for individuals with autism. The first and second author each conducted an independent search of relevant scholarly databases to identify articles published between 1995 and 2013. Differences were resolved via discussion; 54 relevant articles were identified using the search terms: autism + language + assessment; autism + speech + assessment; and autism + communication + assessment. While guidelines for best practice are premature, especially given the diversity of developmental and cognitive profiles in ASD, emerging consensus was seen in the following areas: (a) formal norm- and criterion-referenced tests not designed specifically for ASD have been investigated and shown to be feasible and interpretable in use with individuals with autism; (b) language sample analysis and/or structured observational elicitations of communication in naturalistic contexts are widely advocated as a means to ensure the full profile of an individual’s strengths and challenges; (c) caregiver report measures in several studies compared favorably with formal tests, therefore many scholars support their use to supplement direct testing in clinical environments, because they can serve as probes of naturally occurring communication behaviors.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Wei, X., Yu, J. W., Shattuck, P., & Blackorby, J. (2017). High school math and science preparation and postsecondary STEM participation for students with an autism spectrum disorder. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 32(2), 83–92. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1141715

From the ERIC abstract: “Previous studies suggest that individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are more likely than other disability groups and the general population to gravitate toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. However, the field knows little about which factors influenced the STEM pipeline between high school and postsecondary STEM major. This study analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study–2, a nationally representative sample of students with an ASD in special education in the United States. Findings suggest that students with an ASD who took more classes in advanced math in a general education setting were more likely to declare a STEM major after controlling for background characteristics and previous achievement level. Educational policy implications are discussed.”

Additional Organizations to Consult

The Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders – https://csesa.fpg.unc.edu/

From the website: “The Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (CSESA) is a research and development project funded by the U.S. Department of Education that focuses on developing, adapting, and studying a comprehensive school and community-based education program for high school students on the autism spectrum.”

Methods

Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Autism

  • Autism “mathematics achievement”

  • Autism “reading achievement”

  • Autism “reading tests”

  • Autism “standardized tests”

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2004 to present, were included in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Midwest) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.