Assessment of Communication and Learning Bibliography

by DB-LINK on Feb 1, 2013
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This is a partial list of materials on this topic available from the NCDB Catalog Database.  If you have additional questions, please contact us via email:

Updated 2/2013


Activity and Environmental Survey --Mar, Harvey H.; Sall, Nancy; Rowland, Kathy M. New York: St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center. (2000) This is a survey to assess students in the classroom or other setting to interpret their needs. It includes questions on activities, opportunity for interaction with peers, participation in the core activity, peer assistance to students’ needs, the role of the teacher or paraprofessional, the physical environment, and adaptation of materials and equipment to the students’ needs. Available from: St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, 1000 Tenth Avenue, New York, NY 10019.


AIM: Assessment Intervention Matrix --Wolf-Schein, Enid G.; Schein, Jerome D. Coconut Creek, Florida: Three Bridge Publishers. (2009) The Assessment Intervention Matrix (AIM) is a curriculum used to teach individuals with significant communication or sensory impairments (including those with severe auditory and visual problems or autism) to develop communication and daily-living skills in realistic, meaningful contexts, at school and at home. It is designed to bridge the gap between assessment and intervention through a process of continuous assessment, structured, intensive intervention, and reassessment, and can be tailored to the needs of pupils with a wide variety of abilities and deficits. AIM is divided into 2 parts addressing 7 skill areas. Part I: drinking, eating, dressing, and toileting. Part 2: personal care, housekeeping, and food preparation. This CD-ROM contains an updated version of AIM, which was previously released in 1995 and 2002. The CD contains separate pdf files of the AIM sections and their associated assessment and curriculum forms. Cost: $34.95 (includes priority mailing). Available from Three Bridge Publishers, 1703 Andros Isle Suite J-2, Coconut Creek, FL 33066. Phone: 954-978-1368. Fax: 954-968-3970.


Assessing Children Who Are Deafblind --Mar, Harvey H., Ph.D.; Sall, Nancy, Ed.D. --Psychoeducational Assessment Project. New York, NY: St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center. (2000) These three videotapes were developed for practitioners who are responsible for conducting psychoeducational assessments, but who may not be familiar with the unique needs of students who are deafblind. From both the professional and family perspectives, the videotapes seek to show that an individual's abilities should be assessed in the context of typical activities and routines at school, home and in the community, and that this approach is not only valid, but more useful than traditional test oriented approaches. Tape 1 (#211), "Conducting a Contextual Evaluation" (51:30), features Dr. Harvey Mar, who reviews common challenges faced by psychologists in evaluating students who are deafblind. Tape 2 (#212), " The Parent Point of View" (13:45) features parents of children who have multiple disabilities including deafblindness, voicing concerns about their experiences with the evaluation process. Tape 3 (#213), "The Role of the Psychologist" (18:17), features key points of the contextual model for evaluating students with multiple disabilities. The videotapes are accompanied by a handbook divided into three sections highlighting key concepts of each video. The ways in which the videotapes can be used for self-study and inservice training are also described. Order from: The Indiana Deafblind Services Project, Blumberg Center, Indiana State University, School of Education, Rm. 502, Terre Haute, IN 47809, PH:(800) 622-3035 , FAX (812) 237-8089, TTY: (812) 237-3022, email:


Assessing Communication and Learning in Young Children Who are Deafblind or Who Have Multiple Disabilities --Rowland, Charity. Monmouth, OR: Oregon Health & Sciences University. (2009) Assessing Communication and Learning in Young Children Who Are Deafblind or Who Have Multiple Disabilities. Charity Rowland (Ed). Portland, OR: Oregon Health & Science University, 2009. This 59-page guide is designed to help professionals conduct meaningful assessments of young children who are deafblind and have additional impairments. Parents may also find it helpful. The emphasis is on assessing communication as the foundation for learning. Available on the web:


An Assessment-Based Approach to Inclusive Curricula Design for Children and Youth Who Are Deafblind/Multihandicapped --Writer, Jan, Ph.D. Hilton Perkins Program. Workshop Proceedings of the 1997 National Conference on Deafblindness: The Individual in a Changing Society, Washington, DC June 6-9, 1997. (1997) This paper provides information for creating linkages between appropriate educational assessment and meaningful educational outcomes. It explores ways to select and apply functional educational assessment strategies in the identification of the unique educational priorities of students who are deafblind/multihandicapped. It also looks at procedures for addressing those priorities within individualized general education curricula and instruction within the community. The students of concern include those who have congenital deafblindness concurrent with other disabilities (e.g. cerebral palsy, cognitive impairments, behavioral disorders, health impairments).


Authentic Assessment Monmouth, OR: National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness, Teaching Research Institute, Western Oregon University. PRACTICE PERSPECTIVES, #6, June 2010. (2010) This publication describes an authentic approach to the assessment of communication and learning that emphasizes gathering information about children in their everyday environments during normal activities. It is adapted from a manual called "Assessing Communication and Learning in Young Children Who Are Deafblind or Who Have Multiple Disabilities." Topics include features of an authentic assessment (e.g., an assessment team, family involvement, informal observations, structured observations, appropriate use of assessment tools, evaluations by specialists) and problems with the use of standardized tests when evaluating children with deaf-blindness. This is the sixth in series of publications called Practice Perspectives, designed to increase the use of current information resources through the development of easily understandable products in accessible formats. For print copies, contact NCDB at Available online from NCDB:


Behavioral Assessment Schedules for Individual Clients (BASIC) --Wolf-Schein, Enid G., Ed.D.; Schein, Jerome D., Ph.D. Coconut Creek, FL: Three Bridge Publishers. (1995 (Revised 2000)) The Behavioral Assessment Schedules for Individual Clients (BASIC) was designed to assess the behavior of children and adults who have extreme difficulty adapting to unfamiliar people and new situations, who have very poor communication abilities, who seem to lack skills necessary to perform tasks standard psychometrics require, or who do not respond appropriately to motivational instructions. The nine BASIC schedules each have ten levels which begin with a description of lowest possible functioning and move up developmentally to a level approximating that of a 4-year-old child. Examiners distribute points to form a profile, or check the frequency/duration of each level of behavior observed. It belongs to the category of nonintrusive assessment, because it does not require direct contact between the examiner and client. The schedules focus on: Communication, Motivation, Audition, Vocal Expression, Vision, Motor Competency, Self-Care Skills, Expressive Gestures and Signs, and Receptive Gestures and Signs. BASIC recording grids and checklists are appended. Price is $30.00 incluiding 6 Record Booklets. Available from: Three Bridge Publishers, 1703 Andros Isle Suite J-2, Coconut Creek, FL 33066. Phone: (954)978-1368. Fax: (954)968-3970. E-mail:


The Case for Nonintrusive Assessment of Children who are Deafblind --Wolf-Schein, Enid; Schein, Jerome. Ontario: Canadian Deafblind and Rubella Association. Conference Proceedings, The Sixth Canadian Conference on Deafblindness: Let's Celebrate Our Harmony Together, The Canadian Deafblind and Rubella Association, August 12-15, 1998, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. (1998) Assessment is only useful insofar as it contributes to the positive development of the pupil. With children who are deafblind, individualized curriculum development based on findings from appropriate assessment is crucial. The authors contend that the use of inappropriate tests has led to placing deafblind children in unsuitable settings, cut off from learning what they must know for successful adaptation. This article discusses developmental and psychometric theory, the purposes of assessment and approaches to assessment. Nonintrusive assessments are described including the Assessment Intervention Matrix (AIM), and Behavioral Assessment Schedules for Individual Clients (BASIC).


Child-Guided Strategies: The van Dijk Approach to Assessment --Nelson, Catherine; van Dijk, Jan; Oster, Teresa; McDonnell, Andrea. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. (2009) This guidebook describes the assessment of children who are deaf-blind using an approach developed by Dr. Jan van Dijk. Assessment techniques and general intervention strategies are provided for the following eight characteristics: behavioral state (state of arousal or alertness), orienting response (direction of attention to a stimulus), learning channels (sensory avenues children use to take in information), approach-withdrawal (what a child likes and dislikes), memory (processes that involve habituation, anticipation, and routine learning), social interactions, communication, and problem-solving. Videoclips of two children (ages 7 and 25 months) demonstrating the concepts described in the book are provided on a DVD. The book also describes how to write a summary of assessment findings and includes a sample assessment of an 18-year-old with multiple disabilities. Appendices contain parent interview questions, observation worksheets, and an assessment summary form. The forms are also provided on a CD. Publisher's web site:


Child-guided Strategies for Assessing Children who are Deafblind or have Multiple Disabilities [CD-ROM] --Nelson, Catherine; van Dijk, Jan, Dr. The Netherlands: AapNootMuis Educainment. ([2001]) Through the use of over 40 video clips, this interactive CD-ROM demonstrates strategies for determining how best to teach children who are deaf-blind or have multiple disabilities. Users are asked to answer several series of questions pertaining to the video clips. The answers are then discussed along with options for obtaining more information. Comprehensive assessments of two children follow the interactive overview. Using an interactive question and answer format, the viewer can design an individualized education program for the two children. The CD-ROM also contains an index of terms pertaining to deaf-blindness and multiple disabilities. Each term is defined, explained in depth, and illustrated by video clips. In addition to a comprehensive printed article detailing the assessment process, 12 full text articles by Dr. van Dijk and colleagues are included. The publications provide insight into how Dr. van Dijk views the assessment and education of children with deaf blindness and/or multiple disabilities. There is no publication date on the CD-ROM, but it became available in 2001. Now available in Spanish. The cost is $50.00. Available from Vision Associates ( or contact Kathleen Appleby Web:


Collaborative Assessment: Working with Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, Including Those with Additional Disabilities --Goodman, Stephen A. (Ed.); Wittenstein, Stuart H. (Ed.) New York: AFB Press. (2003) This book addresses the assessment process for students who are visually impaired, blind, deaf-blind, with or without multiple disabilities. Specific assessments addressed include vision, psychological, speech and language. The assessment process is viewed as a collaborative effort between families and professionals working together to assess the student from various perspectives. In-depth case studies discussing specialized strategies and use of the expanded curriculum in education, technology, and orientation and mobility, illustrate how a collaborative team of education professionals work together to present assessment results and develop recommendations for school personnel and families. Descriptions of specific tests are also discussed. Publisher's web site:


Communication Choices and Challenges for "Deaf Plus" --Beams, Dinah, M.A., CED. VIBRATIONS, Spring 2011, p. 16. (2011) This brief article refers to the term "deaf plus" as a child with a hearing status combined with other additional conditions. According to a 2008 Gallaudet report, 4% of the school-age children who were deaf and hard of hearing were reported to also have educationally significant vision loss, with 1.6% identified as Deafblind. The article indicates it is important to understand how a child's hearing loss interfaces with his other challenges in order to determine the best approach for facilitating communication and language skill development.


Communication Matrix for Parents and Professionals --Rowland, Charity. Portland, OR: Design to Learn Projects, Oregon Health & Science University. (2009) The "Communication Matrix" is an online assessment tool that is free and available to anyone. It is designed to pinpoint exactly how an individual is communicating and to provide a framework for determining logical communication goals. The "Communication Matrix" was first published in print in 1990 and revised in 1996 and 2004. It was originally designed primarily for speech-language pathologists and educators to use to document the expressive communication skills of children who have severe or multiple disabilities, including children with sensory, motor, and cognitive impairments. A newer version, designed to be more user-friendly, was developed for parents in 2004. (The print versions for professionals and parents are still available for purchase from the publisher, Design to Learn.) Available on the web: 


Considerations in Assessment of Children with Severe Disabilities including Deaf-Blindness and Autism--Wolf-Schein, Enid G. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DISABILITY, DEVELOPMENT AND EDUCATION, vol.45, #1, 1998, pp.35-55 (1998) This paper discusses the difficulties in assessment of autistic and deaf-blind children with such severe difficulties in communication that they are often labelled as untestable and subsequently misdiagnosed as severely to profoundly mentally retarded. It goes on to make the case for nonintrusive assessment and appropriate intervention as the most relevant procedures for helping this population advance educationally and in life skills.


Design To Learn: An environmental inventory to help teachers design learning opportunities for children with disabilities --Rowland, Charity, Ph.D.; Schweigert, Philip, M.Ed. Portland, OR: Design to Learn Projects. (2003) An environmental inventory used to determine the learning value of a specific activity for a specific child who has PDD, autism or other severe disabilities. It may be used by teachers to identify and create opportunities for active participation and steady learning in typical classroom activities. Publisher's web site:


Developmental Profile as an Assessment Tool for Support Workers --Ehrlich, Jette. (2010) The Nordic Network on cognition and deafblindness headed by Swedish psychologist Hans Erik Froland produced a web based proceedings of social texts from the network's work. There is no pre-edited publications, just text to inspire and work with. This is one of the texts. The author works for Tanne, a Swiss foundation for people who are deafblind. She describes her use of the assessment tool Co-Creating Communication Approach (CCC) developed by Nafstad & Rodbroe (1999). It is used as the main guideline for basic communication intervention. The author set out to simplify the process of the assessment tool to make it easier for support staff to use. Publisher's web site:


Dimensions of Communication: Assessing the Communication Skills of Individuals with Disabilities --Mar, Harvey H., Ph.D.; Sall, Nancy, Ed.D.; Bailey, Brent R., Ph.D. Indiana: Bailey Video Design. (2000) This videotaped assessment tool, along with its accompanying literature, provides information on a systematic approach to gathering and describing communication behaviors. It was designed to help evaluate the communication styles of persons with deafblindness and other multiple disabilities. It assists in identifying the often unique ways individuals with disabilities communicate by developing a comprehensive profile of an individuals' communication style. It describes six dimensions of communication to assess including symbol use, intent of communication, complexity, social action, vocabulary use, and comprehension. Each dimension includes five levels of competencies within them and each are scored accordingly to assess individual student needs.


Evaluation and Educational Programming of Deaf-Blind/Severely Multihandicapped Students: Sensorimotor Stage --Jones, Carroll J. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas. (2002) This is an updated and revised edition of a teacher-training text and resource volume for teachers and other professionals, covering both theoretical background information and diagnostic information, for use in program planning, and in writing and monitoring IEPs. It is designed for use for not only students with deafblindness and severe disabilities, but also children of any disability functioning within the sensorimotor stage of development. The text covers theoretical background information for classroom teachers and related service professionals to use in determining functional abilities for program planning and writing IEPs, collecting data to monitor IEPs, and ideas for hands-on materials that teachers can create and use for instruction in their classrooms. The book is organized into nine chapters concerning the major educational areas for preschool-primary age/grade students with deafblindness and severe disabilities functioning within the sensorimotor stage of development. Also presents materials used in evaluation, programming, and IEP monitoring for vision impairment, hearing impairment, proximal sensory impairment, motor deficits and delays, social and emotional impairment. Each chapter includes sensorimotor stage developmental age norms, scope and sequence lists of programming skills, descriptions of meeting guidelines, case studies, and programming strategies. Contains some information about Snoezelen rooms.


Fact Sheet #41: A Self-Evaluation Guide for Assessing the Quality of Your Interactions with a Student who is Deaf-Blind --Rodriguez-Gil, Gloria; Brown, David. RESOURCES, vol. 15, #2, Fall 2010. (2010) This fact sheet is a self-evaluation guide that emphasizes the importance of the quality of interaction between you and the child who is deaf-blind in addition to the activity the two of you do together. It consists of 12 questions and the more questions you can answer with "yes" the more likely that the quality of the interaction will be good. Available on the web:


A Framework for Assessment and Teaching: Translating Theory Into Practice --Morse, Mary T., Ph.D. Hilton Perkins Program. Workshop Proceedings of the 1997 National Conference on Deafblindness: The Individual in a Changing Society, Washington, DC June 6-9, 1997. (1997) A framework for assessing and teaching children who are deafblind is presented in this article. Based on the teachings of Jan van Dijk, the major principles of this framework are that sensory deprivation can impact on (a) attachment-motivation behaviors, (b) the neurological processing of sensory information and (c) movement -motor expression. The goal in using this framework is to understand the student as fully as possible and then to translate what we know about the child into promoting increased communicative competency.


Framework for Understanding Young Children With Severe Multiple Disabilities: The van Dijk Approach to Assessment --Nelson, Catherine; van Dijk, Jan; McDonnell, Andrea P.; Thompson, Kristina. TASH. RESEARCH & PRACTICE FOR PERSONS WITH SEVERE DISABILITIES, vol. 27, #2, 2002, pp. 97-111. (2002) This article describes a framework for assessing young children with severe multiple disabilities that was developed by Dr. Jan van Dijk and colleagues in the Netherlands. The assessment is guided by the lead of the child as it looks at the underlying processes of learning including biobehavioral state, orienting response, learning channels, approach-withdrawal, memory, interactions, communication, and problem solving. Through the use of two case studies, each of the learning processes is described along with suggestions for assessment and intervention. A sample protocol with observations, child strengths and needs, and suggestions for intervention is included.


Hands-On Learning: A Teacher's Guide to Hands-On Learning...for children with pervasive developmental disorders (including autism) or other severe disabilities --Rowland, Charity, Ph.D.; Schweigert, Philip, M.Ed. Portland, OR: Design to Learn Products. (2003) This booklet describes the instructional model, assessment instruments and teaching strategies developed through the Hands-On Learning Project. Designed to assess the cognitive skills of nonverbal children as demonstrated through their interactions with the physical environment to promote cognitive and social skill development. The instrument contains 39 skills organized into four strands: Obtaining Objects, Practical Uses, Representational Uses, and Social Uses. Publisher's web site:


Hands-On Problem Solving for Children With Multiple Disabilities: Guide to Assessment and Teaching Strategies --Rowland, Charity, Ph.D.; Schweigert, Philip, M.Ed. Portland, OR: Design to Learn Products. (2002) This is a more extensive version of a publication with the same title published in 1997. These materials are appropriate for nonverbal children with multiple disabilities that may include severe mental retardation or sensory impairments, including deaf-blindness. The assessment tools are used to examine a child's everyday interactions with the physical environment in order to determine cognitive ability. This information will help educators and parents to target problem solving skills that will promote cognitive development. Describes 33 problem solving skills, and a model of learning to help develop a learning plan. Includes information on how to monitor performance and promote progress. Publisher's web site:


Holistic Communication Profiles for Children Who Are Deaf-Blind --Bruce, Susan Marie. AER JOURNAL: RESEARCH AND PRACTICE IN VISUAL IMPAIRMENT AND BLINDNESS, Summer 2010, vol. 3, #3, pp. 106-114. (2010) This article presents a holistic communication profile to support structured informal assessment and individualized communication programming for children with multiple disabilities including deafblindness. The four aspects of communication (form, function, content, and context) are used as the profile’s primary organizational structure. This holistic communication profile provides a format by which to record the child’s level of communication and the development of pivotal social and cognitive milestones that influence communication development. Research literature on the profile components is shared to establish the relationships among the pivotal milestones and communication development. A sample holistic communication profile on a child who is deaf-blind is included. A companion document with a blank communication profile and a second sample profile is available here:


Home Inventory of Problem Solving Skills for Children With Multiple Disabilities --Rowland, Charity, Ph.D.; Schweigert, Philip, M.Ed. Portland, OR: Dseign to Learn Products. (2002) This is a more extensive version of a publication with a similar title published in 1997. It is an instrument designed to assess the early cognitive development of children who have severe disabilities (including deaf-blindness) and who are not able to speak. The purpose is to determine how well children with multiple disabilities understand the physical environment and whether they know how to solve the problems that arise in it. It is especially appropriate for children who can't see, hear, or manipulate objects in a typical fashion. There are 3 forms of this instrument. This one is designed to be administered in the home either by family members or by a professional who interviews family members and observes the child at home. Publisher's web site:


Introduction to the Holistic Communication Profile: Integrating Pivotal Social and Cognitive Milestones in Communication Programming --Bruce, Susan M. (2010) Holistic communication profiles provide teams with a structure for assessing and then recording a child’s current level of performance in communication and on milestones in other areas of development that have been demonstrated to influence communicative achievements. This document provides a prototype of a holistic communication profile that addresses the four aspects of communication--form, function, content, and context. Although the prototype was developed for children who are deafblind, it may be used with children who have other disabilities. A sample Holistic Communication Profile (on a young boy with CHARGE syndrome follows the prototype. A full explanation of the components of the holistic communication profile, references for further reading, and a different sample profile (also on a boy with CHARGE syndrome) can be found in the following article: Bruce, S. M. (2010). Holistic communication profiles for children who are deafblind. AER Journal: Research & Practice in Visual Impairment & Blindness, 3, 106-113. Available on the web:


Invitation to Use a Free Online Assessment Tool for Early Communicators who are Deafblind --Rowland, Charity. DBI REVIEW, vol. 46, January-June 2011, pp. 51-55. (2011) This article introduces the free online Communication Matrix assessment tool developed to make an assessment of a child's communication skills easier for parents and professionals. It is a free assessment to assess deafblind children and adults who are operating at the earliest stages of communication.


Language and Play in Students with Multiple Disabilities and Visual Impairments or Deaf-Blindness --Pizzo, Lianna; Bruce, Susan M. JOURNAL OF VISUAL IMPAIRMENT AND BLINDNESS, vol. 104, #5, May 2010, pp. 287-297. (2010) This study explored the relationships between play and the development of communication in 11 students (aged 3 to 10 years) with multiple disabilities and visual impairments (5 children) or deaf-blindness (6 children). The parents and teachers of the students were asked to complete the Play Assessment Questionnaire, an observational measure designed to assess play behaviors. The Communication Matrix was used to assess the children's communication skills. The findings indicate that students with higher levels of communication demonstrate more advanced play skills and that the use of play-based assessment and exposure to symbolic play are important instructional considerations.


PHASES: Psychologists Helping to Assess Students' Educational Strengths --Mar, Harvey, Ph.D.; Goehl, Karen. Teaching Research. DEAF-BLIND PERSPECTIVES, vol. 10, #1, Fall 2002, pp. 1-4. (2002) A training program designed to address concerns about the school-based psychological assessment process. The project, named PHASES for Psychologists Helping to Assess Students' Educational Strengths, was designed to provide training and technical assistance to Indiana school psychologists and other service providers regarding the evaluation of students who are deafblind. The focus of the assessment has been termed"contextual" or "ecological" because its focus is on individuals across a sample of real-life school and home activities. It is believed that this approach provides the most useful information about their communication, problem solving, adaptive, social interaction, and academic skills. Discusses goals and outcomes of the PHASES project and changes that took place. Additional information regarding this project can be obtained from: The Indiana Deafblind Services Project, Blumberg Center, Indiana State University, School of Education, Rm. 502, Terre Haute, IN 47809, PH:(800) 622-3035 , FAX (812) 237-8089, TTY: (812) 237-3022. The PHASES Training Information and Videotape Multimedia Package can be checked out through the project's Resource Materials Center or through DB-LINK at (800) 438-9376, TTY (800) 854-7013. Available on the web:


Review of Assessment Procedures for Students with Moderate and Severe Disabilities --Siegel, Ellin; Allinder, Rose M. EDUCATION AND TRAINING IN DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, vol. 40, #4, pp.343-351. (2005) Assessment procedures for students with moderate or severe disabilities cover a range of procedures and practices. This article reviews recommendations for assessment practices for these students. These recommendations are compared with the assessment actually conducted by a sample of 22 teachers of students with moderate and severe disabilities. Three assessment purposes were analyzed: diagnosis and placement, curriculum and program development, and evaluation. Results are discussed in terms of best practices and recommendations for assessment of students with moderate or severe disabilities.


School Inventory of Problem Solving Skills --Rowland, Charity; Schweigert, M.Ed. Portland, OR: Design to Learn Products. (2002) This is a more extensive version of a publication with the same title published in 1997. These materials are designed to assess the early cognitive development of children who have severe or multiple disabilities and who are not able to speak. It is appropriate for nonverbal children with multiple disabilities that may include severe mental retardation or sensory impairments, including deaf-blindness. These assessment tool is used to examine a child's everyday interactions with the physical environment in order to determine cognitive ability. This information will help educators and parents to target problem solving skills that will promote cognitive development. It is designed to be administered in school or child chare settings by a professional. Publisher's web site:


Staff Interactive Style During Multisensory Storytelling with Persons with Profound Intellectual and Multiple Disabilities --Penne, A.; ten Brug, A.; Munde, V.; van der Putten, A.; Vlaskamp, C.; Maes, B. JOURNAL OF INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY RESEARCH, vol. 56, #2, February 2011, pp. 167-178. (2011) Background Multisensory storytelling (MSST) is an individualised activity for people with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities (PIMD) in which a story is being told with an emphasis on sensory experiences and social interaction. MSST is a promising approach, but needs more empirical research evidence. In general, there is a lack of research about staff interaction during specific activities with people with PIMD. In the present study, we explored the possibility to describe staff interactive style during MSST making use of a global coding instrument. Methods Twenty dyads of a person with PIMD and a professional caregiver participated in an observation study. The caregivers received training in MSST and told a multisensory story to their client once a week, for a period of 10 weeks. The first, fifth and last session were recorded on video. Staff interactive style was coded using an adapted version of the Maternal Behavior Rating Scale, with a consensus rating procedure. Results Professional caregivers scored moderately on the Maternal Behavior Rating Scale. Repeated measures analyses showed no change in time. We did not find a relationship between staff interactive style and client or staff characteristics. Conclusions The Maternal Behavior Rating Scale contributes to our understanding of staff interactive style during activities with people with PIMD. Specifically for MSST, the moderate scores on the interactive style dimensions were unexpected, because the individualised MSST activity created an optimal situation for high-quality interaction with people with PIMD. Because the interactive style did not improve through the repetition of the activity either, these results might point to a need for staff training in achieving high-quality interaction during activities like MSST. 

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