Evaluation and Assessment, Language Therapy

Communication Matrix

Do you know about the Communication Matrix? If not, then this is your extra lucky day! I, along with my fellow UW grad clinicians, use this measure during lots and lots of evaluations, especially when the client is at a developmental stage where they are not using a huge number of conventionally communicative behaviors. I’ll give a short and sweet overview of the Communication Matrix, but the best way to learn more about it is to go to the website and check it out yourself!

http://www.communicationmatrix.org/

What is the Communication Matrix?

The Communication Matrix is a structured assessment measure designed to determine how an individual is communicating, and to provide a framework for determining logical communication goals. It was first published in 1990 and was revised in 1996 and 2004 by Dr. Charity Rowland of Oregon Health & Science University (yeah, Oregon!). Based on responses from the child’s caregiver, a matrix profile is generated that describes the types of behaviors the child is currently using (e.g., Unconventional Communication, Conventional Communication, Concrete Symbols, etc.) and the purposes for which those behaviors are being used (e.g., to refuse, to obtain something, for social purposes, and to gain information). The measure can be completed online by making a profile for the client, or in a printed, paper-based format. I’ve only ever done the online version and since we live in 2013, I recommend you give that format a try too! See that picture below? THAT’s what your results look like once you get through all the sections and questions (it’s called a “matrix” for a reason).

How is the Communication Matrix Administered?

This measure is based on information provided by the child’s primary caregiver. In my experience, it works best to have a clinician actually sitting with the caregiver and walking them through each of the questions and sections to ensure they understand what’s being asked and to take any informative notes that might come up (there’s a place for notes in each section so you can keep track of this information in an organized way). I realize that you won’t always have a clinician to spare during assessments, so the parents could certainly be set up to fill this out while you’re working your magic in the eval!

What Do the Matrix Results Tell Me?

Remember that picture a little ways up in the post? You can probably still see it from where you’re currently reading! If not, it’s time for some scrolling action! Along the vertical axis (going from top to bottom, along the left) are the types of behaviors a child is currently using to communicate. These are ordered (from top to bottom) based on when they appear in typically developing children (i.e., Preintentional Behavior all the way down to Language). If you hold your cursor over each stage, a pop-up with a more detailed description of that stage will appear (on the actual website…not on my blog post). Along the horizontal axis (going from left to right, along the bottom) are communicative functions/purposes for which communication is used. The overall matrix gives you a visual sense of the client’s skill level with different communicative behaviors for various communicative functions (not yet used, emerging, or mastered). In other words, how are they using communication and for what purposes?

How Can the Communication Matrix Compliment My Other Assessment Tools?

Good Question! This tool is a fantastic way to support findings from other measures. If you plan to use the Rosetti, MacArthur Bates CDI, or other caregiver questionnaire as part of your assessment, it’s always a good idea to have a second caregiver measure to ensure reliability in their responses. The matrix gives both a qualitative description of the child’s current communicative functioning as well as a quantitative description of which developmental age range their communicative abilities fall into. And that’s pretty darn cool!

How to Get Started:

Go to the website and create an account. It’s free! You can add individualized profiles for clients and save their results for later reference! All in all, it’s an amazing resource!

There’s lots more detailed information about the Communication Matrix on the website, so I highly encourage you to check it out and give it a try! You can find it by clicking here: http://www.communicationmatrix.org/

Since I’m so confident that you’ll find this tool helpful…YOU’RE WELCOME!

A Good Laugh, Language Therapy, Random Therapy Ideas

Mission Impossible

One of my fellow cohort-mates sent out a Facebook plea the other day asking for topic suggestions to elicit lots of language from a client during her upcoming eval session.  Based on his file, he was 13 yrs old, coming in for a voice/artic eval (I know…odd combo), and his interests ranged from “I dunno” to “whatever.”  To all you male SLPs out there (yes, all 8 of you), maybe you have a secret arsenal of conversation topics to get boys in this age range spouting off language.  For the rest of us though, this is a dreaded demographic for eliciting lots of connected speech for later analysis.  My friend’s post was met with a myriad of responses…some truly helpful and others downright hilarious!

Although she generated a handful of decent suggestions from the wonderful world of social networking, we all tossed out some ideas later that day in our computer lab.  I thought I would share some of the good ones from that conversation in case you are ever stuck trying to think of fun ways to elicit lots of language from a client this age!

  • Client versus Wild: Have 2 baskets/hats/jars: in one you have pieces of paper listing out common tools, household items, survival items, and the occasional funny wildcard.  In the other you have pieces of paper with possible survival settings on them (i.e. post-zombie invasion New York, deserted island, volcanic mountain mid-eruption, etc.).  You tell the client they can choose 3 slips of paper from the “items” jar and one slip of paper from the “settings” jar. Based on their setting and their available items, they have to tell you how they would use those 3 items to survive in their selected setting.  I have no doubt that boy and girls in this age range would be excited about this game!
  • Quote Detective: if you have any inkling of the client’s favorite book or series, this idea might be a big hit.  You open the book to any old page and read off part of a paragraph or scene (from that page).  It’s the client’s job to describe to you what has happened just before this in the book and what will happen right after it in the book.  You’ll get lots of language and they’ll get in the competitive spirit of being tested on a favorite read!
  • How-To Guide: Bring up a popular video game in conversation and claim that you really like to play it.  BUT, when you go to describe it to the client, describe it incorrectly (I would be verrrrrry good at this!).  I can pretty much guarantee they’ll be chomping at the bit to correct you (which will give you lots of complex language…we hope).