A Team Approach to Assessment and Planning
7.1 Myths and Misconceptions
7.2 Working with Other Professionals
7.3 Personnel Available at School and School Board Level
7.4 Other Related Professionals
7.5 Things to Remember When Accessing Help
7.6 A Team Approach to Assessment and Planning
7.1 - Myths and Misconceptions
|Most professionals given their training
will be effective collaborators.
|While being consultative/collaborative
may be a strength for some, utilizing these skills in a school
team setting may often require a certain amount of training
and or practice. Coming to a consensus, dealing with resistance,
and maintaining focus in a group setting can be complex skills
and often require that individuals explore and practice effective
|If team members are agreeing with you
then the meeting is successful.
|While it may be true that
agreement is just what it seems, it is also just as likely
that agreement can be a form of resistance. Agreeing with
a suggestion or a statement without further discussion can
be an indication that the person agreeing is in fact trying
to end the meeting. Resistance comes in many forms, such as
humour, silence, confrontation, as well as consensus. Recognizing
and dealing with resistance is a crucial skill in successful
|The medical community will be able to
provide information on how to implement a program.
|The medical community may
be able to assist with a description of the impairments experienced
by a student with an ABI. In some rehabilitation centres,
specially trained resource teachers will be available to assist,
but for the most part, it will be left to educators and the
school team to discover the strategies that will be needed
to cope with those impairments.
|Serious physical impairments are always
noted in the Ontario Student Record.
|While most serious physical
impairments are noted on the Health Record found in the OSR,
ABI is often the exception, either because it is never medically
diagnosed or because the impairments connected with an ABI
are not immediately apparent.
is essential that information be shared along with responsibility
and accountability to ensure that the team works as it is intended,
with all members having an opportunity to participate.
7.2 - Working With Other Professionals
The Team Approach
The team approach in special education is by far the most common
and effective way of dealing with the diverse needs of students
with exceptionalities. In the case of students with acquired
brain injury, the members of the team may include a number
of personnel not normally utilized in a school setting. In those
cases where a student has required intervention at the hospital
and rehabilitation level, those professionals generally associated
with a medical model of service delivery will be involved in developing
a plan for the student.
Within the Ministry of Education guidelines for the development
of an individual educational plan, the utilization of a team approach
in addressing the concerns of a student with an exceptionality
is clearly delineated. It is essential that
professionals, parents, and where appropriate, the students themselves
be given an opportunity to share information and work together
in formulating a plan. It is not always possible or perhaps even
preferable to have all those involved in the same room for each
team meeting. Involvement in a team meeting may, for some, take
the form of a written report submitted ahead of time or information
passed on at another time. Because of this, it is important that
one person take on the role of coordinating the report and informing
all parties of pertinent information. This role is generally,
at the school level, performed by a special education teacher
and overseen by the principal.
As is often the case, members of any team come to the table with
a variety of views, differing amounts of information, and perhaps,
differing opinions on what the end goal of the meeting might be.
While it is very common that all members share the goal of improving
the school life of a student, how to reach this goal may be a
basis for some lively discussion. Health professionals may focus
on the physical rehabilitation aspects of treatment, educators
may be more concerned with curricular concerns, and parents or
the students themselves may be more concerned with effect in terms
of reestablishing friendships and feeling comfortable in school.
For team meetings to be successful a relationship of trust must
be established that allows all the participants to voice their
concerns and suggestions for programming. It is essential that
team members decide on goals that are mutually acceptable to each
other, communicate those goals, and share responsibility in attaining
Perhaps the most important element of a successful team is the
commitment of the school administrator to ensure that the team
process proceeds smoothly. Professionals agree that for an in-school
team to be successful, the following considerations must be addressed.
order for in-school teams to be effective it is essential that
they have the support of the school administration.
In-school teams must:
- Meet regularly
- Have and follow an agenda
- Have a meeting place that is not open to constant interruption
(such as the staff room)
- Have regular members, which includes an administrator
- Review documentation and information prior to the meeting
- Keep appropriate documentation
- Have a focus on problem-solving
- Recognize the personal and professional assets of team members.
7.3 - Personnel Available at
School and School Board Level
Learning resource teacher
- Individualized support for students
- Liaison between team members
- Resource support for classroom teachers
- Available in most schools
- Can see students informally
- Is required to oversee any identified students with
- Cognitive assessment
- Behavioural assessment
- Recommendations for programming
- Generally referred through learning resource teacher
and central office staff
- Implementation of program in coordination with educator
- Individualized support for student
- Additional funding through special education budget
- Can be tied directly to IEP claim
- Varies from school to school and school board to school
- Generally responsible for providing individual counselling
- Career counselling to older students
- Referral though school or can be accessed through parent
Speech and language pathologists
- Language and speech assessment and programming
- Augmentative/alternative communication services
- Goal is the development of effective communication
- Referral from school or physician
- Can continue from preschool
- Assessment and program planning
- Provision of specialized equipment
- Consultation on exercises, sitting postures, muscle
- Goal is motoric independence
- Referral from physician or specialized setting
- Assessment and program planning
- Development of a range of fine/gross motor skills with
a focus on independence (e.g., drinking from a cup)
- Recommendations for activities at school and at home
- Goal is to enhance student's independence
- Referral from physician or specialized setting
Outreach teacher from
ABI rehabilitation facility
- Provides ABI specific knowledge on strategies specific
to a particular student
- Will act as ongoing resource to school team
- Parents may make referral
- Teachers may contact with permission of parents
Local community brain
- Offers excellent background information on needs of
students with ABI
7.4 - Other Related Professionals
- Cognitive, psychological, neuropsychological, behavioural
- Collaborative programming
- Referral from family physican, school, insurer, or
- Neuropsychological assessment
- Referral from family physician
- Developmental and medical assessment
- Referral from family physician
- Medical management of neuroleptics and psychiatric presentations
- Referral from family physician
- Access to funding support
- Depends on relevant policy (automobile, health)
- Manage and coordinate services
- Depends on severity classification
Public Health Nurse
- Dealing with public health concerns of development,
safety, and general medical nature
- Through local regional services
7.5 - Things to Remember When
- It is essential that one person coordinate the efforts of
- There will be varying levels of knowledge among parents and
- Different stages of recovery/rehabilitation will require
the involvement of different members of the team.
- The process will be more complex because of the possibility
of dealing with varying ministries (health) as well as private
7.6 - A Team Approach to Assessment
An effective assessment incorporates a variety of sources to
build a complete picture of a studentís capabilities. It is only
when this complete picture is examined, that members of a team
can begin to program effectively for students with ABI.
Assessment information should come from a variety of sources
- Medical personnel
- Other related professionals
- And, where appropriate, the students themselves.
Information collected from only one source will reveal only a
partial understanding of the nature of the studentís capabilities
and thus prove ineffective for programming.
The importance of teacher observation
In special education in general, and certainly in the case of
ABI where terminology and medical overtones may serve to intimidate,
there may tend to be an overreliance on standardized assessment
measures. It is because of the complexity of the condition that
something as seemingly simple as ďteacher observationĒ may appear
unimportant in the overall assessment process. Nothing could be
further from the truth. Frontline educators have a unique opportunity
to observe students over prolonged periods of time both as individuals
and within a group setting. In the case of ABI it is likely that
an educator may be the best source of information with regard
to pre-injury performance and thus be in a position to make some
comparisons. Working collaboratively with the in-school team and
the parents, important data that can lead to effective programming
can be collected just through watching!
Tips for good observation
- Keep notes
- Observe within a variety of settings (working independently,
within a group)
- Observe across subject areas
- Do not forget the social aspects of education
- Be aware of time (is the student more fatigued in the morning?)
- Be aware of any bias you may have in observing
- Enlist the viewpoints of others.
Neuropsychological information measured, utilizing standardized
types of formal assessment, can be extremely useful in the development
of an effective program only if combined with additional information
provided by educators. Information provided by educators may consist
of observational data, samples of the studentís work, information
about pre-injury performance as well as information about classroom
structure, the availability of differentiated learning environments,
and personnel. No information is useful in isolation. If, for
example, an assessment yields the result that auditory memory
is severely impaired, then a team approach can establish first
whether this information is compatible with the observations of
the educators involved, and secondly, how to best accommodate
the learning needs given the constraints of the studentís educational
Brain injury can affect a studentís performance along a large
spectrum of functioning. Because the brain is multidepartmental
the location of injury is very important in terms if how it affects
functioning. Cognitive/ neuropsychological assessment can assist
in differentiating areas of deficit that may affect performance
and thus provide valuable information for programming.
While traditional achievement tests and intelligence tests play
a role in assessing a student with an ABI, it must be remembered
that they will, by and large, be measuring pre-injury learning
and not the post-injury ability to learn. Therefore, it is most
important that specialized tests to measure current specific cognitive
function be used.
For students with an ABI, an assessment which focuses solely
on an examination of their academic and social achievement in
comparison to their peers or curriculum expectations alone will
not provide the necessary information to develop an effective
program. For these students, assessment must focus on their current
cognitive (memory, problem-solving ability, spatial awareness,
etc.) functioning as it relates to academic and social settings.
When assessment fails to take into account ďhow the student thinksĒ
there can be a continued decline in the studentís performance
postinjury. This decline may appear to be a continued effect of
the studentís injury, while in reality, continued decline presents
in a very small percentage of individuals who have sustained an
ABI. It is far more likely that a student with an ABI, who is
failing to learn, may be doing so as a result of a mismatch between
factors such as the learning environment, pace of instruction,
mode of delivery, and the underlying cognitive limitations and
strengths of the student. For example, a child who, as a result
of the injury, needs to be presented with new material in a visual
way, will fail to learn in a class that relies heavily on auditory
Understanding that some cognitive skills (e.g., flexible attention-shifting,
organization, modality of learning, processing speed) have been
altered or diminished, can assist the educator in developing a
program that will allow the student to avoid academic frustration
and learn more effectively. With an awareness of cognitive strengths,
programming can be adjusted to meet the needs of students with
ABI. Accommodations as simple as providing information through
the studentís modality strength (e.g., auditory), providing the
student with explicit stepwise organization to a task and slowing
down can dramatically affect the studentís ability to learn new
A neurological assessment may be initiated by a medical doctor,
an insurance company, a lawyer, or a case manager at a rehabilitation
facility. Within a school setting, if an assessment has not been
done upon return to school, a special education teacher may initiate
testing through contact with the school board special education
staff. Often, only a portion of the testing needed can be done
at the school level. In many cases tests such as those that measure
intellectual functioning in terms of IQ as well as achievement
assessments may be administered through school board personnel.
Where more sophisticated testing is required, a neuropsychologist
will be required.
a student with ABI must focus primarily on how a student thinks
rather than what s/he knows.
In the case of ABI, there may not be any preexisting information
other than that which is normally acquired throughout a studentís
schooling. Copies of report cards, group-administered assessments,
and screenings at the preschool level are generally accumulated
throughout a studentís school career. While these types of information
will be helpful in developing a complete picture of the studentís
past functioning it should be noted that a studentís ability to
acquire, retain, and utilize new learning may be dramatically
altered as a result of the brain injury.
In the case of a student who has experienced an ABI, assessment
is not recommended for students immediately following the injury.
Often physical complications, along with a rapid recovery period
may render assessment results unreliable. Students may also be
restless, agitated, fatigued, and confused during this time. Only
when a student has stabilized and is able to focus for periods
of time is an assessment recommended. This is generally around
the 6-month mark. As recovery can last for up to 2 years, follow-up
assessments at regular intervals are essential to fine-tune and
adapt instruction to meet the studentís changing needs.
Types of tests used in neuropsychological
In addition to traditional testing tools such as IQ testing (e.g.,
WISC-III) and tests of academic achievement (e.g., WIAT), assessment
in the case of a student with ABI will most likely include tests
Who is responsible for assessing a student with ABI?
When a student returns to school having sustained an ABI, assuming
that the child had not been identified as exceptional in another
capacity, there may be very little testing done beyond that which
is normally completed on students at a particular grade level.
Psychological testing, such as the establishment of an IQ score,
as well as examinations of other types of cognitive functioning
will be completed by a psychologist.
A good neuropsychological assessment should clearly define a
studentís cognitive strengths and weaknesses. Using this information,
combined with the ongoing observations by the educators, the special
education personnel, in cooperation with the neuropsychologist
(and perhaps special education personnel from an ABI rehabilitation
facility) team members, will be able to develop and implement
effective programming strategies. It should be expected that the
developmenet of effective learning strategies will require ongoing
observations and modifications of the studentís success. This
is particularly true for a student with an ABI due to the changes
that occur as a result of recovery.
What to do with the results of an assessment
The intent of a good assessment is to provide information about
the childís current level of cognitive functioning. It should
provide a clear profile of the studentís strengths and weaknesses
across a number of cognitive skills. It should also provide examples
of how the student presents with his/her apparent strengths and
weaknesses in the context of his/her learning environment. With
this information, educators should be able to articulate specific
strategies and accommodations in teaching style and material exposure
that will enhance the childís abilities and de-emphasize and/or
compensate for the inabilities.
What can the teacher do to assess the possibility that s/he
has a child with an ABI in the classroom?
You may have a child who has sustained an ABI if s/he experiences
any, but typically combinations, of the following:
- Attention Difficulties: Students experience
trouble sustaining attention for prolonged periods of time;
or they cannot perform two tasks at once (take notes and listen
to the teacher). Often they are better with visual and written
material than with oral and auditory material since they can
review and re-attend to the written material at their own leisure,
but once the auditory information has been given, it is gone.
- Slowed Rate of Processing: Students will
almost invariably be slower to intake and process information,
and will be slower to respond (verbally, physically) than their
- Memory Failure: Students will have long-term,
substantial learning and memory difficulties in terms of encoding
the information, storing it for permanent later access, and
retrieving the information at a later time. They are more successful
at recognizing previously experienced material than they are
at recollecting it.
- Executive Function: Students
typically will have difficulty with the skills that allow one
to monitor and manage oneís knowledge base (e.g., organize information,
sequence and prioritize information, plan ahead, anticipate
outcomes, shift topics/ thoughts, think abstractly, make sound,
informed judgments). These difficulties become more obvious
in older children since the demands for these sophisticated
skills are more apparent as one progresses through the academic
So, ask yourself:
Is the student able to:
- Concentrate? How long?
- Mentally manipulate information (e.g., do math in his/her
- Do two things at once (e.g., write notes, and listen to instruction
- Concentrate on visual versus oral information?
Is the student:
- Accurate, but slow to respond or complete things?
- Accurate when there are no time limitations (e.g., times
versus untimed test?)
Does the student:
- Have difficulty in retaining new information?
- Improve with context information for learning?
- Increase learning with repetition?
Does the student:
- Have problems prioritizing, organizing, and/or sequencing
information and are these corrected when an organization plan
is provided to him/her?
- Have difficulty in following through a commitment?
- Have difficulty shifting ďcognitive setĒ/thoughts/ approach
when the task demands, environment, or situations have changed?
Chapter 6 - Chapter