We all have those high-functioning kids with ASD who score in the average range on the CELF but so clearly have language issues. It can be hard to justify services for students like this, especially in school districts where test scores are the main criteria for eligibility. King & Palikara sought a solution to this frequent dilemma by using a variety of different assessment tools.
Using groups of adolescents both with and without high-functioning ASD, the researchers tested each child using the CELF-4, a standardized vocabulary test, a variety of narrative analysis tasks, and the Children’s Communication Checklist (CCC-2), completed by parents and teachers.
Not surprisingly, the adolescents with ASD scored similarly to typically developing peers on the CELF-4 and vocabulary measure. However, students with ASD scored significantly lower on a variety of narrative tasks.
Compared to peers, adolescents with ASD produced narratives that:
- Were shorter and less grammatically complex
- Used more limited vocabulary
- Included less reasoning and fewer explanations
- Made fewer references to emotion and thoughts
- Made use of fewer linguistic enrichment devices
- Contained less conflict resolution and reduced character development
- Were overall less coherent
Did you get all that?
Basically, when assessing high-functioning students with ASD, especially those on the verge of qualifying, do yourself a favor and include some kind of narrative measure. I know, I know—narrative analysis can be complex and time-consuming, and the authors note this as well. But using narratives in assessment can give us great information about specific areas of difficulty that the CELF just doesn’t address. Besides, narrative assessment results translate so easily into IEP goals, so it will be worth your while. Check out the original article for more details on how they used and analyzed narrative assessment!