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Functional Assessment Services for Transition, Education, and Rehabilitation: Project FASTER.

Assessment data should serve as the cornerstone of the rehabilitation process, guiding the provision of service offerings. Numerous studies, however, document that the results of psychometric instruments (e.g.,IQ and personality tests) and traditional vocational evaluation procedures (e.g., work samples) have little relationship to actual rehabilitation performance of persons with special needs (Frey, 1984). As an alternative, functional assessment methods (Halpern & Fuhrer, 1984) that focus on the actual skills and capacities of the individual have been recommended in the first section of this article, we discuss the rationale for functional assessment procedures to rehabilitation and present a conceptual model of these procedures. in the second section, we describe a model demonstration project that was funded in the fall of 1993 by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to develop and provide functional assessment services for adolescents and adults with cognitive disabilities at an existing assessment facility: Project FASTER (Functional Assessment Services for Transition, Education, and Rehabilitation) (Bullis, 1993).

People have been assessed for almost 100 years through "traditional" intelligence, personality, and neurological instruments and procedures (Gould, 1979; Sundberg, 1977). Historically, these types of assessments have been used primarily for classifying individuals as belonging to or not belonging to specific groups (e.g., possessing a specific condition or not) or for determining the individual's eligibility for a certain program. Controversy exists, however, over the relationship of data from these traditional instruments to actual behaviors (McClelland, 1973). Of specific concern to the rehabilitation field is the relevance of the results from traditional assessment procedures to the employment, education, community living strengths, and needs and preferences of people with disabilities (Halpern & Fuhrer, 1984; Dowdy, Smith, & Nowell 1992. This subject is significant, as assessment data should serve to base judgements regarding eligibility for rehabilitation programs and to plan the individual's services. The relevance of traditional intelligence, personality, and neuropsychological instruments and their respective results to the pragmatic educational, work, and community adjustment focus of rehabilitation programs is unclear at best, and may be totally unrelated to the rehabilitation process (e.g., What does an IQ score say about a person's potential to perform a particular job? What does the performance on scales 1, 2, and 3 of the PI say about their potential to learn how to live independently?) (Bullis & Foss, 1986; Bullis, Nishioka-Evans, Fredericks, & Davis,1993; Bullis & Reiman,1992; Cobb, 1983; Cobb & Lakin, 1985; Frey, 1984; Halpern & Furher, 1984; Hursh & Kerns, 1988; Porter & Stodden, 1986).

To illustrate, Cohen and Anthony (1984) reviewed the psychiatric literature on the relationship of psychometric data to rehabilitation outcomes for persons with mental and emotional disorders. They concluded the following:

* Measures of psychiatric symptoms do not predict vocational rehabilitation (VR) outcome.

* The psychiatric diagnosis does not predict VR outcome.

* Measures of psychiatric symptoms do not correlate with the psychiatrically disabled person's skills.

* Measures of skills do predict VR outcomes.

The need for a functional assessment approach tied directly to the rehabilitation process also was made clear in a paper by the Berkeley Planning Associates (1989) on the rehabilitation of persons with learning disabilities (LD). They reported that, for this population, an effective assessment process is one that both establishes a diagnosis and provides practical information about consumer strengths and limitations that can be used in vocational goal-setting and service planning. A simple recommendation of more testing is not warranted, because at present the vast majority of counselors are dissatisfied with the diagnostic reports they receive on LD clients since they often do not help with establishing a clear diagnosis and rarely contribute to effective service planning. Similar conclusions have been reached for persons who are deaf (Bullis St Reiman, 1992), those with mental retardation (Stodden, lanacone, Boone, & Bisconer, 1987), and persons with antisocial behavioral disorders (Bullis et al., 1993).

In response to the need to gather pragmatic data related to rehabilitation, vocational evaluation procedures are widely used. Vocational evaluation (Pruitt, 1976) has been defined as.

"A comprehensive process that systematically uses work, real or simulated, as the focal point for assessment and vocational exploration, the purpose pose of which is to assist individuals in vocational development. Vocational evaluation incorporates medical, psychological, social, vocational, educational, cultural, and economic data in the attainment of the goals of the evaluation process,, (Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Association, 1975, p. 86).

This type of evaluation typically is implemented within a rehabilitation facility or vocational evaluation center during a specific period of time (e.g., 4-6 weeks). While vocational evaluation should employ multiple assessment tools (including psychometric instruments and situational assessment), the assessment tools paired most often with vocational evaluation are the commercially available work sample (e.g., Singer Vocational Evaluation System, McCarron-Dial Work Evaluation System, the Tower System) or locally developed work samples that are designed to represent jobs available in communities. These instruments represent analogue interpretations of work environments and their demands (VEWAA-CARF Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Standards, 1975). For example, a cubicle with a particular type of job (welding) may comprise part of a work sample system.

As these instruments reflect - at least at face value - the requirements of "real" jobs and vocational settings, there is intuitive appeal to their use. Unfortunately, the psychometric properties of these instruments are generally poor (Frey, 1984, DeStefano, 1987). Results from these assessments tend to provide only static data on an individual, as they are difficult to use in a longitudinal manner to document learning, growth, and/or maturation (Sitlington, Brolin, Clark, & Vacanti, 1985). Finally, several studies demonstrate that results from these types of instruments have little relationship to rehabilitation outcomes (Cook, 1978; Cook Sr Brookings, 1980). Cook p.12) stated the following regarding the relationship of vocational evaluation recommendations to rehabilitation outcomes:

"While there was a positive and significant relationship between completion of a center vocational training program and subsequent employment, completion of training was made independent of recommendations made in evaluation.... In this particular setting, it probably would have been just as effective, and much more efficient, to have assigned clients to different service modalities by drawing recommendations out of a hat."

Because of the shortcomings of traditional psychometric assessment and work samples for rehabilitation, alternative methods of assessment are being explored. Functional assessment procedures in rehabilitation were formalized in an edited volume based on a 1983 meeting of the National Association of Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers on this specific subject (Halpern & Fuhrer, 1984).

Functional assessment is characterized by several features:

* It includes multiple and different types of instruments (including, if appropriate, work samples).

* It addresses the unique work, education, and community adjustment strengths, needs, and preferences of the individual.

* It should appraise the characteristics of employment, education, and community settings in which the individual could be placed.

* It allows for the ongoing assessment of consumer growth and skill acquisition.

The close relationship of assessment to intervention also is emphasized. Specifically, assessment and related interventions should sample from similar content bases to ensure the direct relevance of assessment results to intervention efforts (Kazdin, 1985; Linehan, 1980). The results from a functional assessment are then tied directly to intervention efforts, as well as the subsequent evaluation of the intervention.

However, functional assessment in rehabilitation is in its infancy (Frey, 1984), a situation which is likely to change both as a result of apparent need and recent legislative changes. The transition initiative (Will, 1984), which has become a central part of the legislation governing special education and rehabilitation agencies (Rusch & Phelps, 1987), mandates that

* adolescents receive training in the skills necessary to become successful in our society while in school, and

* that these persons be connected to community agencies (including VR) through a transition planning process that is to begin by age 16 or 14 if the individual is likely to not finish his or her public education (P.L. 94-142, 1992).

As many adolescents with special needs will have minimal work experiences, ill-defined goals and aspirations, and less than developed work, education, and community living skills, traditional assessment procedures - which provide a static view of the individual - in many cases are not appropriate for this population (Sitlington et al., 1985).

The new Rehabilitation Act Amendments (P.L. 102-569, 1992) redefine the rehabilitation process, and assessment in particular. For instance, the amendments:

* alter the standards for determining eligibility by relying on a "presumption of employability" for all persons regardless of severity of disability;

* emphasize using existing data and information for making eligibility decision and making rehabilitation plans,

* call for a comprehensive examination of the individual's strengths and preferences; and

* mandate the active involvement of the consumer in the assessment process.

Given these two parallel legal and service delivery developments, it is clear that there is a great need to refocus the functional assessment process as it relates to the VR process.

The section below provides a conceptual model around which to organize such procedures.

Conceptual Model

Figure 1 presents a conceptual model of functional assessment, which includes three possible outcome domains for the rehabilitation process and multiple methods of assessment. Additionally, the model emphasizes the interaction between the characteristics of the individual and those of the settings in which he or she could be placed.

Parameters of the model. Three broad outcome domains - employment, education, and community adjustment - are identified, for several reasons. First, the new Rehabilitation Amendments and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act emphasize education, work, and community goals for people with disabilities. Second, recent studies CHalpern, 1985; Halpern, 1993) demonstrate that these three outcome domains are reasonably independent of one another, suggesting that it is not possible to focus on only one area (e.g., providing only vocational services to an individual) and affect positive change in the other two. Third, the available research on the community adjustment of people with disabilities indicates that, in general, persons with disabilities tend to experience varying levels of success in these outcome areas (Wagner & Shaver, 1989).

It is possible to assess these areas through

* norm-referenced measures (e.g., Test of Interpersonal Competence in Employment, Bullis & Foss, 1986);

* informal third party rating scales (e.g., Scale of Job-related Social Skill Performance, Bullis et al., 1993); and

* self-reports (e.g., vocational interest inventories) and interviews (e.g., Test of Job-related Social Skill Knowledge, Bullis et al., 1993); and

* behavioral observations of consumer's placed in employment, education, or community settings (e.g., situational assessments, Hursh & Kerns, 1988.

Characteristics of the individual. In order to base the rehabilitation planning process in a context relevant for the consumer, it is essential to first assess the individual's basic cognitive (sensory perceptual capabilities, motor functioning, language skills, spatial-relations, problem solving) and physical (presence of complicating physical condition) capabilities, as these characteristics will, to some degree, influence planning decisions. Particularly with older consumers who may be entering the rehabilitation system some years after leaving school, the absence of assessment data and "hidden" disabilities (e.g., learning disabilities emerges as a crucial subject to be addressed (Dowdy et al., 1992. Consideration of the individual,s different strengths and needs across settings is important to note, as many people perform in different ways across different settings and may exhibit different learning styles or ways to process information (Deshler & Schumaker, 1986). It also is crucial to examine the individual's vocational and life interests and preferences, as there is research to suggest that people are more likely to be happy and successful if their lives correspond closely to their interests and preferences (Loftquist & Dawis, 1969; Nosek & Fuhrer, 1992, Nosek, Fuhrer, & Howland, 1992; Szymanski, Turner, & Hershenson, 1992).

For a person to maintain and progress in employment, education, and the community, it is mandatory that he I she be able to perform the required tasks of the setting in a satisfactory manner. General adjustment skills refer to the formal and informal skills required to succeed in a particular setting. These skills are associated peripherally with task performance and include dressing and grooming appropriately for the setting, exhibiting enthusiasm and motivation, following safety regulations, being punctual, and so on. Numerous studies provide evidence that the primary correlate of success or lack of success in education, job placements, and community settings relates to social skills, or the ability to "get along" with supervisors or people of authority (e.g., work supervisors, police, landlord), coworkers and peers on the job or in community settings (Bullis & Foss, 1986; Bullis et al., 1993; Cartledge, 1989; Chetkovich, Toms-Baker, & Schlichtmann, Foss, Walker, Todis, Lyman, & Smith 1986; Walker & Calkins, 1986).

The concept of self-determination, or the ability to plan and direct one,s own direction and life course in different settings, has assumed major importance in rehabilitation. This ability may be the most important aspect of mental health and functioning (Bandura, 1982, 1986) and it is a key element of rehabilitation success (Halpern, 1993 Nosek & Fuhrer, 1992; Nosek, Fuhrer, & Howland, 1992. Self-determination is at the heart of the new Rehabilitation Amendments and is a bold pronouncement of the central role of people with disabilities as equal partners in the rehabilitation process.

Characteristics of settings. Modern social learning theory (Bandura, 1982, 1986; McFall, 1982, 1986) and rehabilitation thought (Szymanski, Dunn, & Parker, 1986) suggest that there is an important and critical interaction between the individual and the target setting in which he or she is placed. It is clear that attention must be paid to the skill requirements of the employment, education, and community settings in which the consumer may function, possible accommodations that may be made to address the needs of the individual, and supports which may exist to foster success for the individual (e.g., coworkers to enlist to help the client) (Gaylord-Ross, Siegel, Park, Sacks, & Goetz, 1990; Nisbet, 1992; Szymanski et al., 1989). Often times, it is attention to these setting variables that spell the difference between placement success and failure (Nisbett, 1992).

Project FASTER

In the section above we have presented the case for using functional assessment procedures and a way in which these procedures can be conceptualized. In the section following, we offer an overview of a project designed to provide such services.

Project FASTER (Bullis, 1993) began in the fall of 1993 with startup funds from an RSA grant awarded to the Teaching Research Division of Western Oregon State College (TR) to develop and provide functional assessment service capabilities at the Education Evaluation Center (EEC), an assessment center administered by TR.

Setting and Project Structure

Both TR and the EEC are located on the campus of Western Oregon State College in Monmouth, Oregon, situated 65 miles west of the state capitol of Salem, 70 miles south of Portland, and 65 miles north of Eugene in the Willamette River Valley, an area in which 80 percent of the state's population resides. The college has a total enrollment of almost 4,000 graduates the largest number of special education teachers in the state, and offers master's degrees in special education and rehabilitation counseling, as well as a number of other disciplines.

TR is a research and development agency funded through state and federal monies and specializing in service provision to persons with special needs. EEC has been funded for over 30 years through state and federal funds through the Oregon Department of Education to offer assessment services to school districts. Over the past 5 years, EEC has received a steady, but small, number (n = 4 to 7) of referrals from rehabilitation counselors and other adult service providers.

EEC is staffed by a full-time director - who is a school psychologist - a part-time speech pathologist, and a second part-time school psychologist. A Ph.D. level staff person is employed on a contractual basis to assess adults with learning disabilities. Through grant funds, a half-time assessment specialist with a specialty in the transition and rehabilitation of adolescents and adults and a vocational assessment specialist with extensive experience in job and community placements for persons with disabilities have been hired expressly to work with persons referred to Project FASTER.

Purpose and Focal


The purpose of the project is to provide functional assessment services for adolescents and adults with cognitive disabilities. Over the course of the 3-year project, we will increase the number of referrals from a target of 10 in the first year, 25 in the second year, and 25 in the final year.

Ultimately, we hope to develop strong referral sources which will allow these services to continue after federal funding ceases on a fee-for-service basis.

To ground the project in the needs of local service delivery agencies, we have sought close coordination with Oregon's Division of VR, the Youth Transition Project (YTP), a cooperative statewide project administered jointly by VR, the Oregon Department of Education, the University of Oregon (Benz, Lindstrom, & Johnson, 1994, and representatives from disabled student services in Oregon's Community College and Higher Education systems. Upon receiving notification of the grant award, we engaged in intensive conversations with representatives of these agencies. It became clear that, to address their most pressing needs and in recognition of the limited resources of the project, it would be important to identify a primary or focal population to serve.

In line with these discussions, we made the decision to focus project services to adolescents and adults who are learning disabled, suspected of having a learning disability or brain injury, and I or experiencing emotional or behavioral problems concomitant with a learning problem. This population represents the largest disability group within special education and is the fastest growing disability group served through the state-federal VR system (Berkeley Planning Associates, 1989; Dowdy et al., 1993; White, 1992).


Several initial meetings were held with project staff to discuss the project and its basic structure and to review much of the literature presented in the previous section. Drawing from this literature base, the conceptual model (Figure 1), and pragmatic issues surrounding service delivery, we established a general model to guide service and a project philosophy Figure 2 presents a model of the process and the way in which services are offered through the project.

In line with our beliefs about functional assessment services, the unique characteristics of the learning disabled population, and the new legal requirements for special education and rehabilitation, we developed the following project philosophy statement.

"We believe that assessment should be an integral part of the rehabilitation endeavor and that it must be grounded in the unique characteristics and needs of the individual. Further, it is essential that assessment be geared to address questions from the rehabilitation counselor or referring agent concerning the individual,s unique strengths and weaknesses for functioning within work, family, and community environments. Use of existing information and full input from the client at each stage of the assessment is critical. It is important to gather data on and to assist establishing their perspectives and opinions on pragmatic placement, support, and accommodation issues within these settings.

"Functional assessments offered through the project are conducted by a multidisciplinary team consisting of a psychologist, a speech pathologist, a handicapped learner specialist, and a situational assessment specialist. The assessments include IQ and other traditional psychometric measures, social histories, integration of already completed assessment data, behavioral observation, interview and self-report procedures, and appraisal of the demands, supports, and accommodations of the environments in which the individual may be placed. Client interests and motivation related to training and eventual placements also are identified. An in-depth report from the team includes (a) background and social history; (b) analysis and integration of previous testing; (c) results from functional assessment; (d) results from psychological assessment; and (e) specific recommendations related to training, job placement, work adjustment, environmental accommodations and adaptations, and resources or support services that may be available to the individual to foster rehabilitation success and community adjustment.

"Following assessment, the referring agent will be able to apply these results and recommendations in a pragmatic and effective program for the client. If needed, continued onsite assessment and followup by a staff person can be provided to assure that the assessment is as beneficial as possible for the transition or rehabilitation professional and the client."

Developmental Activities

A number of initial developmental activities have been completed and are now being implemented.

Referral sources and linkages. In order to solicit initial referrals, we contacted three groups of service providers:

* VR counselors,

* school and rehabilitation personnel involved in the YTP, and

* coordinators of services for students with disabilities in community colleges and institutions of higher education.

Contacts have included mailings (consisting of materials on the project, fee schedule, and referral forms), phone contacts, and - in a few instances - visits with program staff. Additionally, to expand this base of contacts and to focus our initial efforts, we have established and held meetings with an advisory board that consists of transition, education, and rehabilitation service providers, parents of persons with learning disorders, and persons with learning disorders.

We started the project with a bias that one of the reasons that assessments are often judged as "disconnected" to the rehabilitation process is that the referring agent and the assessment specialist do not interact effectively. As a result, there is confusion over what to ask for in the assessment and, conversely, what to provide for assessment results. Stated differently, if assessment results are to be integrated into rehabilitation practice, they must be grounded in the needs of the referring agent who will in turn apply these results to service provision. Thus, we developed a referral packet including a checklist to be completed by the referring agent to summarize the consumer,s background and existing assessment results, release forms necessary to share the results with project staff, and a referral form specifying specific areas of concern which are checked to focus the assessment process.

Instrument identification. The EEC already possessed a number of assessment tools for different populations, and at least some of these tools have relevance to the rehabilitation process and fit within a functional assessment approach (e.g., Woodcock-Johnson Battery. However, to expand the project,s functional assessment capabilities, it became necessary to secure and access other, relevant instruments, which have been identified through an extensive computerized and hand search. The parameters of the computerized search included any books, articles, or instruments written or developed in the past 10 years. Within this timeframe, any material addressing functional assessment, vocational services, learning disabilities, or situational testing was reviewed through the computerized databases of ERIC, Psychological Abstracts, and the Educational Testing Service. A lengthy hand search also was conducted of texts, publications, catalogues, and assessment instruments recommended by colleagues and the advisory board.

Instruments judged as promising (i.e., relevant to the rehabilitation process, possessing acceptable psychometric properties, and addressing a population with learning disabilities or that would be applicable to this population were catalogued according to age group (adolescent and/or adult) and skills the instrument addresses (e.g., job-related social skills, work production skills, money management). Review copies of the instruments were secured and examined and, if recommended through staff review, were secured and included in the instrument pool for the functional assessments. We should note that few instruments were located to assess the setting requirements of the outcome areas. Given this, we have taken steps to develop measures for this purpose.

Development of environmental assessment measures. Human behavior and performance are influenced strongly by setting variables (e.g., What are the demands of the setting? What are the aspects of the setting that could be modified or changed?). It then is essential to conduct analyses of the prospective settings in which the individual consumer will, or could, be placed. Unfortunately, as noted above, we were unable to locate instruments to assess the setting demands that supplied information relevant to a rehabilitation perspective. This absence of measures, coupled with the fact that the first referrals we received related to questions about work and postsecondary education placements, led us to develop two measures: the Environmental Job Assessment Measure (E-JAM) (Waintrup, Kelley, & Bullis, 1994a) and the Environmental School Assessment Measure (E-SAM) (Waintrup, Kelley, & Bullis, 1994b.) At this point, we have not developed an environmental assessment measure focused to community living settings because of time constraints. It is entirely possible that such an instrument win be developed in the future.

Our initial thought was that either the E-JAM or E-SAM should be completed as a routine part of the assessment process, and that - in some instances - completion of these measures should be the responsibility of the consumer in conjunction with project staff. We reasoned that such an activity could assist the individual in gathering information about his or her work or school placements, thereby guiding decisions about his/her own rehabilitation plan.

Both measures have been field-tested at 5 to 10 sites. These efforts have resulted in wording changes and item elimination and combination. Preliminary inter-judge reliabilities have been established for both measures that suggest a reasonable agreement between judges (ranging from .40 to .88 for different sections) and provide a foundation for further psychometric analyses. As the project progresses, we will continued to refine and study these instruments. Both measures have been used in several functional assessments conducted under Project FASTER's aegis.

Figure 3 presents examples of items from the E-JM. The E-JAM consists of three rating areas for each of five environmental clusters. The three rating areas are demands of the job, accommodations/modifications, and available supports. The five clusters describing the demands of the workplace are based on the skills and characteristics of successful workers for the 21st century identified in the SCANS (Secretary Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills) report (1989)

These clusters are: * physical demands of the job, * working conditions on the job, * educational demands of the job, * general work behavior, and * social interaction.

The first rating area focuses on the appraisal of the skill demands of the job and utilizes a 4-point Likert Scale. The anchors (i.e., 1,2,3,4) of this scale for each item have been written to be consistent with the item stem. For example: the item stem "vision" uses "not critical," "mildly critical" "somewhat critical," and "critical" as its rating anchors, and "percent of job time spent sitting" uses "25 percent or less," "50 percent," "75 percent," and "100 percent." The second area, Accommodations/Modifications, is presented clearly in the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Amendments of 1992, which affirm the individual's right to work (Senate Report 102-357, p. 14-15). In some cases, reasonable accommodations or modifications will have to be made on the jobsite for the individual to be successful. It, too, is assessed on a 4-point Likert scale. The third area, Available Supports,"... is defined as a broad term meant to include having a supervisor, coworker, or other employer/employee provide supervision and support at the worksite..." (Senate Report 102-357, p. 28). Natural supports are part of the ongoing support services mentioned in the amendments and are central to placement success (Nisbett, 1992). These supports are summarized in narrative form in each of the five clusters composing the E-JAM.

Figure 4 presents examples of items from the E-SAM, which is set up in much the same way as the E-JAM. It contains three rating areas in each of four environmental clusters. The three rating areas are school environment demands, accommodations/modifications, and available supports. As for the E-JAM, the first two areas utilize a 4-point Likert scale and the third summarizes information in narrative form. The four clusters are: * environmental demands, * general socio-educational expectations, * educational requirements, and * instructional style/evaluation/materials.

These clusters were identified and written with: * recognition of the characteristic strengths and weaknesses of the focal population (i.e., persons with LD) and * through input provided by counselors of students with disabilities in community college and college settings. * Data collection. A projectwide data collection system has been developed to describe: * the characteristics of the clients served, * the instruments used in the functional assessments and their results, * the perceptions of the client and the referring agent regarding the quality of the assessment and their satisfaction faction with it, and * the effect of the assessment on rehabilitation success. Satisfaction data are gathered directly from clients and referring agents through a structured interview that is administered by a staff person in a telephone conversation. To examine the possible effect of the functional assessment on rehabilitation success, we will track each client at 6-month month intervals by telephone to document work, postsecondary education, and personal experiences. These data will be compared to baseline statistics maintained by Oregon's state VR office (e.g., percentage of clients deemed eligible, months required to enter services from referral) and through a data base maintained by the Oregon Department of Labor (e.g., employment and wage statistics).

Case Study

At this time (September of 1994), we have been accepting referrals for 9 months, during which we received 31 referrals and have conducted 24 functional assessments under the aegis of the project; these figures are well beyond the goals for the first year. A case study of one of the individuals we have seen is presented below to highlight the functional assessment process.

Presenting problem. "Bob" is a 55-year-old man referred for an evaluation by the physical plant supervisor of a large company because he has exhibited obvious reading and writing difficulties. These problems have made it difficult for him to pass the state written Pesticide Test, which is needed in order to apply chemicals as part of his position as groundskeeper. Bob currently is supervised by others in these specific activities. At referral, there was a possibility that he might lose his promotion, or possibly his job, if he could not pass the Pesticide Test. The company wanted to know if he had a learning disability and if there was a program that could help him improve his reading skills.

Overview of assessment procedures. To answer the referral questions, the diagnostic agnostic process included: * an in-depth interview with Bob and his supervisors, * formal and informal testing (e.g., ability, achievement language, hearing), and * an onsite visitation and environ@ mental assessment to identify the requirements of the job related to pesticide spraying and reading/writing.

Bob indicated that he had always had difficulty with reading and writing in school and had dropped out in the 10th grade. He has held his current job for 11 years, where he operates machinery and sprays plants by hand. He is a loyal worker and has a supportive wife and family

To determine his current ability level, the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised was administered. The results showed an 18 point discrepancy between the verbal and performance scores, with verbal ability in the below average range and performance well within the average range. This discrepancy indicated relative strengths in spatial organization and visual integration ability. Further language and hearing testing revealed weaknesses in auditory memory and a slight to moderate hearing loss in the lower frequencies in both ears, making word discrimination difficult.

Bob's academic levels were assessed on the Woodcock-Johnson Psycho Educational Battery and informal measures, such as the Burns and Roe Informal Reading Inventory and Brigance Informal Inventory of Essential Skills. Bob's independent reading level ("reads easily") was at fourth grade with instructional (teaching level) being at the fifth grade level. He was well under the 100 percent accuracy level for reading warning, information, traffic, and safety signs and basic math vocabulary words. While he has difficulty with spelling, punctuation, and capitalization and tends to avoid writing, he is able to make fairly well constructed sentences. Math ability on the Woodcock-Johnson was within the average range and he demonstrated skill with basic math operations, including adding and subtracting fractions. His functional problem solving skills exceeded his calculation skills.

An onsite examination of the specific job requirements and completion of the E-JAM revealed that pesticide application was 10 percent of the groundskeeper job. Specifically, Bob needed to be able to properly mix chemicals safely. He also needed to accurately apply them and report their usage. Further, the exact words and math needed to complete the jobs were identified and the reading materials for the job were secured.

Bob was found to have a learning disability in the area of language. Relative weaknesses included difficulty reading technical information, written language, auditory short-term memory, and vocabulary. His relative strengths were his interpersonal skills, math (especially problem solving skills), mechanical skills, and being a reliable worker.

Recommendations. At the conclusion of the assessment, Bob's case manager (the staff person coordinating the assessment) visited with him and his wife to explain the test results and talk about possible recommendations. Initially, Bob was in denial regarding his learning disability and did not want anyone coming to the worksite where his coworkers could see that he was getting assistance. Time was taken to talk about what a learning disability is and to note some well-known persons who are learning disabled. Suggestions for adaptations and accommodations that could be made in the worksite were given. With support from project staff and his wife, Bob helped decide on the following recommendations: * Obtain labels and directions of pesticides used in his job in pictorial form from the companies that make the chemicals. * Seek services from VR for assistance in obtaining a job trainer who would work with Bob to teach him the reading and writing skills he needs in order to perform the pesticide applications portion of his job. It was also suggested that the trainer could work with Bob to prepare him to take the state examination. * It was suggested that, until the aforementioned recommendations could be implemented, Bob should approach his supervisor about being assigned primarily to grounds work and machine operation. * If Bob can get a copy of the actual pesticide labels (either the original or simplified ones), his wife offered to do additional work with him at home. * It was suggested that Bob's program be reviewed 8 months after adaptations have been initiated. * Based on Bob's past report and hearing test results, it was recommended that he see an audiologist to discuss his hearing loss.

Outcome. Project staff met with Bob's supervisors to explain his disability. The suggested adaptations and accommodations were discussed. The involvement of a trainer to teach Bob the needed skills was viewed positively by the supervisors.

Referral was made to VR by project staff. Initial contact by the vocational specialist with VR indicated that Bob should be eligible for services and that the assessment reports would be very helpful in conceptualizing training and support services. Plans now are underway with VR to secure a job coach to assist in the training. The job coach will work with Bob outside of the work environment for the last hour of the work day and for another hour after work in order to train him in the specific areas noted above. Project staff will continue to monitor his progress to insure that success is achieved.


Project FASTER represents one of the first attempts to provide functional assessment services within a rehabilitation context for persons with learning disabilities. We are pleased with its beginning and optimistic about its future success and place in the service delivery system. Functional assessment presents the rehabilitation field with a pragmatic approach to the appraisal of clients and the planning of interventions. However, many of these procedures and needed instruments have not been developed and/or field-tested. Thus, it is clear that extensive work is necessary to refine and improve this process. Given the close relationship between functional assessment and interventions, these efforts will affect not only assessment but, ultimately, the type and effectiveness of the services provided, resulting in greater success or individuals with disabilities.

The development of this manuscript was supported by a grant from the Rehabilitation Services Administration. However, no official endorsement by that agency of the views expressed in these products should be inferred.


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Author:Isaacson, Arlene
Publication:American Rehabilitation
Date:Jun 22, 1994
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