Communication Matrix: Testing the Beginner Communicator

As speech and language pathologist we evaluate student’s speech and language skills. Although there is a wealth of evaluation tools for students for speech and language it is sometimes difficult to find tools for our students with severe disabilities. We especially want a tool that will allow us to test the beginner communicator as well as to measure progress.

The Communication Matrix ( Click to be brought to the website) This tool was developed based on research by Elizabeth Bates and her colleagues. The approach looks at the function of the behavior. It was also influenced by the work of Heinz Werner and Bernard Kaplan that looks at the emergence of symbolic communication as a developmental process.

The tool is free to use online and looks at all forms of communication. The tool is a series of questions. A great aid in filling this out is that there are videos embedded into the tool to assist the administrator in making sure that they are scoring it correctly. It covers the seven levels of early communication development and the communication intents of refuse, obtain, social and information.

Dr, Charity Rowland is the developer of this tool.

I have found that reviewing this information on a regular basis not only gives me ideas about the progress of the students but drives my instruction. There are times that I have found that I have not regarded all communication intents and this Matrix helps me. An example of this was in working with a student with a significant motor, cognitive, health, speech and language, and sensory issues I had never thought about how to have the student alert others that he had something to say. Working with a team of physical therapists, occupational therapist, special educator and nurse we were able to construct a simple switch whose purpose was an alert. We were very excited when the student alerted us to the fact that his computer had gone offline. This was particularly exciting as this had not been a communication exchange that we had anticipated or taught.

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