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A team led by Kansas University researchers has won a $1.7 million grant to help create a standardized test that clinicians and scientists could use to treat people with communication disorders.
The goal of the test, known as the Communications Complexity Scale, is to determine the communication abilities of children and adults with several different disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, deaf-blindness and cerebral palsy.
Nancy Brady, an assistant professor of speech, language and hearing at KU, and Kandace Fleming, the statistical and informational officer for KU’s Life Span Institute, will lead the team. The two already have worked on the scale for several years with collaborators from the University of Washington, administering the test to 150 people so far.
The $1.7 million grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development will help Brady and Fleming refine, standardize and validate the test.
The team will use the scale to assess 300 hundred participants in the Lawrence and Kansas City areas. The researchers also will partner with colleagues from the University of California, Los Angeles.
To determine a person's position on the 11-stage Communications Complexity Scale, the assessment’s administrator engages the participant in tasks and games designed to elicit reactions and interaction, Brady said.
With better assessment tools, clinicians can create more targeted care aimed at helping patients make incremental improvements in ability along the communication complexity scale, rather than trying to push a child at a preverbal stage into making “a huge jump to words quickly,” Kandace said.
By determining where someone is in their ability at a given point in time, researchers will also be able to test the effectiveness of new pharmaceutical and behavioral treatments.