Social communication deficits are common in adolescents with high-prevalence developmental disabilities
(Baribeau et al, 2015; Skuse et al, 2009; Storebo et al, 2012), and contribute to poor adult outcomes (NCWD,
2015). Social communication involves adapting language to a context (Rose-Krasnor, 1997). Intervention can
improve social communication skills, but to be effective, interventions must be tailored to the adolescent’s
current level of ability for relevant contexts (Cai & Richdale, 2016; McCall, 2015).
To plan effective social communication interventions, researchers rely on criterion-referenced assessments.
Criterion-referenced language assessments compare examinee performance to a performance standard, such
as the developmental timetable for mastering grammatical inflections. The timetable for adolescent social
communication development is not well understood, leading current social communication assessments to
interpret performance by another standard, such as expert judgments of appropriate or inappropriate
responses. Others have determined performance level by using Rasch or IRT analyses to empirically
determine item difficulty. No current adolescent social communication assessments determine performance
levels by comparing examinee performance to levels of an interpretive framework that has been validated by
empirically-determined item difficulty.
Current assessments are not designed to identify adolescents’ level of social communication ability for the
transition to post-school contexts such as employment or independent living. Evidence on how much context
affects measures of social communication is limited.
To address these gaps in social communication assessments, the Transition Pragmatics Interview (TPI; Poll &
Petru, 2018) has been developed. The goal of this project is to test the design of the TPI as comparing the
examinee’s ability level to an empirically-validated interpretive framework. Items of the TPI will be designed to
vary in difficulty based on the levels of the interpretive framework, the Situational-Discourse-Semantics model.
Based on a field test of this refined TPI item set, item difficulty will be evaluated using Rasch analyses. Levels
of the interpretive framework will be evaluated as predictors of item difficulty. To evaluate how context affects
social communication, field test participants will be evaluated with four subscales of the TPI, each focused on a
post-school context. Rasch analyses will used to determine participant abilities for each post-school context on
an equivalent scale. Finally, the context-focused sub-scales of the TPI will each be evaluated to determine
their dimensionality. Taken together, these will be major steps in the development of a psychometrically-sound
measure of adolescent social communication tailored to transition intervention planning.