Academic journal article The Behavior Analyst Today

The Early Communication Indicator (ECI) for Infants and Toddlers: What It Is, Where It's Been, and Where It Needs to Go

Academic journal article The Behavior Analyst Today

The Early Communication Indicator (ECI) for Infants and Toddlers: What It Is, Where It's Been, and Where It Needs to Go

Article excerpt

Measuring children's fluency learning a new skill is a component of applied behavior analysis of long standing. In special and general education programs in elementary schools today, fluency measurement can be seen as Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM), and in preschool and kindergarten programs as Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skill (DIBELS). Each of these forms of fluency measurement provides a valid and sensitive means of measuring the effectiveness of instructional interventions in reading (CBM: Shinn, 1989) or emerging literacy skills like phonemic segmentation (DIBELS: Kaminski & Good, 1996) that are precursors to reading. In this paper, we discuss an effort to extend this approach to infants and toddlers, children birth to three years of age. Progress developing an early communication fluency indicator is described, and an example of where research and practice needs to go to advance this work is provided. Implications for further research and practice are discussed.

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A concern exists that early interventionists lack adequate means of monitoring the individual progress of young children particularly infants and toddlers, children birth to three years old (e.g., Greenwood, 2002; McConnell, 2000). Needed for example, are better measures of identifying children with delays developing communication skills and of directly informing early intervention intended to support learning communication skills (McConnell, Priest, Davis, & McEvoy, 2002). Communication is a socially valid general outcome and indicators of increased proficiency in communicative skill are needed (e.g., Priest et al., in press). Early interventionists, childcare practitioners, and home visitors often rely on specialists for assessment of early communication because most lack the training and skills to administer and interpret the standardized tests and ratings typically used for this purpose. While these measures may identify children with delays relative to typically developing children, findings from tests and ratings too often have little direct utility for early intervention (Fuchs & Deno, 1991; Fuchs & Fuchs, 1986). One reason is that the conceptual frameworks of most early measures reflect person variables and do not connect with the 'alterable" interaction and ecological variables under the control of early interventionists. Another reason is that these measures may not be administered frequently enough, for example, no sooner than 6-months, to be useful in planning or modifying an intervention. Early interventionists need sensitive,reliable, measures specifically designed for measuring early intervention results.

Luze et al. (2001) recently reported an effort to develop an expressive communication fluency indicator (ECI) for use by early interventionists. Like CBM and DIBELS measures, evidence of the measure's sensitivity to growth over time and age, and its technical adequacy in terms of criterion validity and reliability are reported. They also described a case example of how the measure might be used to monitor communication proficiency and to monitor the effects of intervention in a childcare center organized around milieu teaching (Greenwood, Luze, & Carta, 2002).

Briefly, Luze et al. (2001) reported that the ECI was sensitive to changes in specific prelinguistic (i.e., gestures, vocalizations) and spoken language skills (i.e., single words, multiple words) measured monthly for a sample of 50 children. The ECI was sensitive to differences in age, with older children in the third year of life demonstrating more fluent and proficient communication skills than children in their second year, compared to the first year of life. The ECI was significantly correlated with a standardized measure of early communication, the Preschool Language Scale--3 (Zimmerman, Steiner, & Pond, 1992), and a parent rating measure indicating the ECI measures communication skills (see Luze et al. …

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