Functional use of an AAC system is dependent upon many factors, one of which is the user’s ability to understand a symbol’s intended meaning. Clinicians can access the literature to better understand such topics as symbol acquisition, lexical selection, and symbol recognition (Schlosser & Sigafoos, 2002). The ability to generate novel messages outside of learned contexts requires that the user understand that symbols can represent different parts of speech and that they can be combined to create messages expressing a variety of communicative functions. There is evidence that this is a learned skill (Stephenson & Linfoot, 1996).
As such, a critical component of selecting an appropriate AAC system is to understand the child’s strengths and weakness across a range of symbolic communication tasks. These tasks include knowing: (a) the optimal size symbol and field size, (b) if the user is able to identify symbols representing parts of speech other than nouns, (c) does the child have categorization skills, and (d) can the child use symbols to answer questions, describe pictures and do so using more than a single word response.
This can be achieved informally through a variety of assessment tasks or possibly by trying several different AAC tools. Today’s blog will highlight the Test of Aided-Communication Symbol Performance (TASP) (Joan Bruno, 2006), an assessment tool available through Mayer-Johnson.
Remember to Explore the Evidence
The TASP was created as an outcome of a 2-year Performance Improvement (PI) project directed by Joan Bruno, Ph.D., at Children’s Specialized Hospital in NJ. The goal of the project was to provide a systematic and objective mechanism for assessing a client’s: (1) optimal symbol and field size, (2) ability to recognize the grammatical categories that a symbol represents, (3) categorization skills, and (4) ability to form sentences using a picture communication board. It provides a framework from which clinical decisions can be made.
The TASP is not a standardized test. Standardized tests yield normative data such as standard scores (SS), percentiles, and/or age-equivalents. The TASP is an tool that helps to systematically and objectively measure a variety of AAC symbolic skills. Results are reported as percentages.
The TASP should be used as a part of a comprehensive AAC Assessment. It is appropriate for use with children as well as developmentally disabled adults. It is quick and easy to administer. The TASP results provide a framework from which one can design a communication board, select an appropriate AAC device or page set, and establish intervention goals. The TASP can also serve as a tool to benchmark progress in aided communication performance.
The TASP includes four subtests, each focusing on a different symbolic skill. Subtests include:
- Symbol Size and Number – Helps to determine the size and maximum number of symbols a child can select from, on a communication board or AAC device.
- Grammatical Encoding – Samples the child’s ability to recognize symbols representing pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and locatives.
- 3. Categorization Skills – Assesses a child’s ability to categorize symbols according to their category exemplar as well as to according to grammatical categories, a skill needed when using many core word vocabulary systems.
- 4. Syntactic Performance – Probes a child’s ability to sequence pictures to form telegraphic messages and simple sentences. Use of articles, prepositions, and the present progressive verb tense are sampled. Performance is assessed through imitative tasks, open-ended questions, and picture description tasks.
The test includes a comprehensive manual including a clinical framework for the test, test administration procedures and several case examples to aid practitioners with administration and scoring procedures. The TASP also includes reproducible score sheet and assessment templates.
Selection of the most appropriate AAC App device and/or page set (e.g., Gateway©, WordPower®, PODD) should be the outcome of a clinical assessment that includes objective information about a child’s symbolic skills, receptive and expressive language abilities, literacy skills as well as communication and educational goals. It is recognized the selected device or App will be influenced by variables including clinician experiences and preferences, parent and user input, school district guidelines and funding resources. However, unless we hold the child’s needs and abilities of paramount importance, the child’s pathway to communicative competence may be impacted with additional and unnecessary challenges.
Resources and References
Mayer-Johnson, distributor of the Test of Aided Communication Symbol Performance (TASP) prepared a brief video introduction which can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I71jXvIysSA&feature=youtu.be
Clinician‘s Derationmonst – https://youtu.be/2RA9wVvVmkA?t=be
Bruno, J. (2010) Test of Aided-Communication Symbol Performance, Pittsburgh, PA, Mayer-Johnson, LLC. -SKU M3MJ206
Schlosser, R & Sigafoos, J. (2002). Selecting graphic symbols for an initial request lexicon: Integrative review. Augmentative and Alternative Communication,18(2), 102-123.
Stephenson, J. & Linfoot, K. (1996) Pictures as communication symbols for students with severe intellectual disability. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 12(4), 244-255.