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Autism - Assessment Tools

Assessment is an integral part of learning and teaching. It helps to provide a profile of a child or young person's progress, attainment and achievements, and to identify next steps for progression. 

Child/young person assessment

As part of the Early Help process, prior to requesting support from Teaching Support Team, schools will be requested to assess and report on the child or young persons needs.

For each child and young person there will be an individual profile that will highlight implications for learning. It is essential that the profile of the child or young person needs to accurately record both their strengths and needs to ensure everyone has realistic and appropriate expectations.

Ways to gather information about a child or young person include:

  • Observation and/or discussions with the individual.

  • Discussions with their parents/carers and other professionals who have worked with them.

  • Past reports and supporting documents.

  • Reviewed individualised educational programmes (IEPs) are a useful format to share information and personalised support. Many settings/schools have developed their own format and name for these documents.

The profile of the child or young person can be spikey meaning there is often variation in performance of skills and abilities across a range of developmental and curricular areas. They may have strengths and abilities in keeping or beyond their developmental age. In some areas, however, skills may be far below their developmental age/stage. The child or young person may be inconsistent in the engagement with tasks. They may demonstrate competency but then appear to have lost the skill or the motivation to complete the task.

Setting/school self assessment

Settings/schools may find it useful to self-assess and audit their setting and practice against the frameworks and standards as suggested by the Autism Education Trust. The standards, competency frameworks and Inclusion Development Programme are also provided for Early Years: 

  • Schools Autism Standards
    "The standards have been designed for use across all types of educational settings from mainstream to special and specialist, for pupils from the ages of 5 to 16 years, at all levels of ability... There are interactive links from the set of standards to resources that demonstrate how a school or provider might implement practice or policy." (AET, 2016)

  • Autism Competency Framework
    "The framework is presented as a self-evaluation tool that practitioners can use to rate their current practice and understanding against a set of descriptors (knowledge, skills, personal qualities). Feedback should inform practitioners' professional development plans and content of any future training." (AET, 2015)

  • Sensory Audit for School and Classrooms [PDF 107KB]
    "This sensory audit is to help staff to assess and create an environment that enables the participation of pupils with autism. It does not cover all aspects, but gives ideas on the ways in which a setting might be altered if pupils experience sensory processing difficulties and find it hard or very anxiety-provoking to tolerate certain sensations or situations." (AET, 2015)

  • The Inclusion Development Program [PDF 453KB]
    While this resource provides self-assessment learning units aimed to develop staff understanding, it also provides suggestions of useful resources linked to different aspects of autism to help setting/school to reflect on and develop their practice.

Observation-based assessment

Evidence of subsequent school-based intervention and monitoring is essential prior to any referral to an external specialist, for example, Speech and Language Therapist, Specialist Advisory Teacher, or Educational Psychologist.

Assessment tools to assist in identifying reasons behind behaviours that are preventing learning or progress include:

  • STAR Analysis
    This is a medium term observation schedule that helps identify potential triggers that may at first appear unrelated. Further information on the use of this tool is covered as part of the Local Authority Level 2 Autism Awareness Training:
    STAR Analysis [PDF 205KB]
    STAR Analysis Blank [PDF 49.2KB]

  • Iceberg Model
    At times, a combination of factors, including the impact of autism on their thinking and processing of information, can result in individuals with autism communicating through behaviour which might be inappropriate to the context, or unexpected. The behaviour may have become an expected response to particular stimuli or situations. Staff will at times consider some behaviours to be challenging." (Autism Toolbox 2017)

    An analogy is often made with the iceberg; the behaviour we see being the tip of the iceberg. Dealing with the behaviour alone can be a short lived measure if the more significant reasons, often not so obvious, are not identified and addressed. 

  • Indices of Friendship Observation Schedule [PDF 190KB]
    A useful tool to assess social skills and to indicate areas where further support/intervention is required. Settings/schools can rate individual skills from the assessment schedule to prioritise interventions. 

  • Sensory Checklists
    A variety of sensory checklists can provide an insight into the sensory difference.

  • Smart Moves
    A Screening tool to assist in the early identification of children with motor co-ordination difficulties through a series of tasks based on the PE curriculum. An extensive activity bank related to each of the PE curriculum areas. These activities can be differentiated according to the ability of the child, allowing the children to develop key physical skills at their own pace.

Specialist assessment

The SEND TST Autism Team are qualified, skilled and experienced in using a range of specialist assessment tools to help identify the strengths and weaknesses in relation to the different learning style of children and young people with autism. These are largely used at the start of an intervention, to initially identify concerns and enable the planning of appropriate provision to take place.

The Specialist Advisory Teachers will often then guide schools in the use of appropriate assessment resources to ensure that they can identify, track and monitor specific areas of the children and young people's learning and development and record how they make progress over time.

Specialist assessment may include:

  • Engagement Profile and Scale
    The Engagement Profile and Scale is a classroom tool developed through SSAT's research into effective teaching and learning for children with complex learning difficulties and disabilities. It allows teachers to focus on the child's engagement as a learner and create personalised learning pathways. It prompts student-centred reflection on how to increase the learner's engagement leading to deep learning." (SSAT, 2017)

  • PEP-R (Psychoeducational Profile — Revised)
    The PEP-R Test consists of a set of toys and learning materials that are presented to a child within structured play activities. It has been designed to be used with children who have autism and related developmental disorders. Autism involves not only developmental delays but atypical behaviours, and the PEP-R addresses these aspects by assessing both development and behaviour. The test focuses upon the child's skills in seven different developmental areas in order to provide information on developmental functioning. Each Developmental item in the test is scored as either Passing Emerging or "Failing.  It is suggested that items scored as Emerging might be given priority when devising educational tasks and activities to be undertaken at school or at home.  The PEP-R also provides a Behavioural Scale Profile, divided into four areas, Language, Relating and Affect, Play and interest in Materials and Sensory Responses.

Key documents

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