Social Communication Rating Scale
Examine how social communication may affect everyday social interactions and/or academic performance
Analyze adverse IMPACT of Social Communication as required by IDEIA
IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale (ages: 5-21) is an objective measure of social communication based on informal observations of clinicians, teachers, and parents. This tool aids in the clinical determination of a diagnosis/special education eligibility by examining how social communication deficits may affect everyday social interactions and/or academic performance (for educational planning purposes)
The IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale evaluates the impact of a child’s social communication on their social interactions, academic life, and home/after school life. The current rating scale asks parents, teachers, and clinicians to rate the various components of social communication on a 4-point scale (“not typically,” “sometimes,” “often,” and “typically”) and yields a percentile and standard score. By utilizing this rating scale, we are able to develop a better understanding of how a student’s social communication difficulties/differences may impact language development, as well as academic performance, and peer relationships.
Examples of the the IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale Questions
Frequently asked questions
The nationwide standardization sample consisted of 1249 examinees (typically developing), stratified to match the most recent U.S. Census data on gender, race/ethnicity, and region.
The Impact Social Communication Rating Scale can be accessed as part of the Video Assessment Tools annual membership which costs $125 annually ($24.99 monthly), OR it can be accessed as part of the Social Squad intervention program membership at the Video Learning Squad site which costs $79 annually.
The IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale was developed at the Lavi Institute by Adriana Lavi, PhD, CCC-SLP (author of the Clinical Assessment of Pragmatics (CAPs) test, the Social Squad, the IMPACT Language Rating Scale, etc.
All standardization project procedures were implemented in compliance with the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, & National Council on Measurement in Education [AERA, APA, and NCME], 2014). Additionally, all standardization project procedures were reviewed and approved by IntegReview IRB (Advarra), an accredited and certified independent institutional review board, which is organized and operates in compliance with the US federal regulations (including, but not limited to 21 CFR Parts 50 and 56, and 45 CFR Part 46), various guidelines as applicable (both domestic and international, including but not limited to OHRP, FDA, EPA, ICH GCP as specific to IRB review, Canadian Food and Drug Regulations, the Tri-Council Policy Statement 2, and CIOMS), and the ethical principles underlying the involvement of human subjects in research (including The Belmont Report, Nuremberg Code, Declaration of Helsinki).
This is an online rating scale with accompanying videos that narrate and explain the questions. SLPs, teachers and parents are able to access the rating scale forms online. SLPs use automated scoring online to obtain standard scores and to generate a report.
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Highlights of the IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale
The results of the IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale provide information on a student’s awareness of social context, intent to socialize, nonverbal language, social interactions, theory of mind, ability to accept change, social language and conversational adaptation, social reasoning, and cognitive flexibility. Data obtained from the IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale is useful in determining eligibility criteria for a student with a social communication impairment.
Strong Psychometric Properties
The IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale was normed on a nationwide standardization sample of 1249 examinees. The sample was stratified to match the most recent U.S. Census data on gender, race/ethnicity, and region.
The IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale areas have strong sensitivity and specificity (above 80%), high internal consistency, and test-retest reliabilities.
Ease and Efficiency of Administration and Scoring
The IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale consists of three observational rating scales, one for clinician, one for parent, and one for the teacher. All IMPACT rating scales and scale converting software is available online. Rating scale item clarification videos are also provided on this website. Additionally, an instructional email with a link to the website and rating form is prepared for your convenience to send to teacher and parents.
Description of the IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale
The IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale is a norm-referenced pragmatic language rating scale for children and young adults ages 5 through 21 years old. It is composed of 35-40 test items, and has three separate forms to be completed by clinician, parent(s), and teacher(s). It is an accurate and reliable assessment that yields valid results on informal observations of pragmatic language such as intent to socialize, nonverbal language (e.g., facial expressions, tone of voice), theory of mind, social reasoning and cognitive flexibility. Normative data of this test is based on a nationally representative sample of 1006 children and young adults in the United States.
The test is composed of nine areas: social context, intent to socialize, nonverbal language, social interactions, theory of mind, ability to accept change, social language and conversational adaptation, social reasoning, and cognitive flexibility.
The IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale is composed of 35-40 test items. The test uses a series of items that asks the rater to score on a 4-point scale (“not typically,” “sometimes,” “often,” and “typically”). The rating scale yields an overall percentile and standard score. While completing this checklist, examinees are able to watch accompanying videos that will provide specific examples of what each question is asking. The videos are there to help examiners along if they have any questions regarding the skill that they are assessing.
Rating Scale Uses and Purpose
Parents and teachers provide us with invaluable information regarding a student’s social communication in both the classroom and in the home environment, however, this information is not always easy to obtain, explain, or understand. Additionally, the questionnaires, checklists, or surveys that we have used in the past may have overlooked or missed the specific areas of social communication (i.e., nonverbal language) we are currently hoping to address. The results of the IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale test provide comprehensive information on pragmatic language skills and social language development of children and young adults. The scale provides natural and authentic observations by familiar observers across multiple settings and situations. The IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale can be a beneficial tool to support a referral, compliment other pragmatic language assessments, compare clinician’s, parent’s, and teacher’s ratings, help plan interventions, and monitor progress of interventions. By utilizing The Social Communication Rating Scale, we are able to develop a better understanding as to how a student’s pragmatic language skills may impact their academic performance and progress in school.
Code of Federal Regulations – Title 34: Education
34 C.F.R. §300.7 Child with a disability. (c) Definitions of disability terms. (11) Speech or language impairment means a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.
The Individual’s with Disabilities Act (IDEA, 2004) states that when assessing a student for a speech or language impairment, we need to determine whether or not the impairment will negatively impact the child’s educational performance. In order to determine whether a pragmatic language impairment exists, we can collect parent, teacher, and clinician observations of the student in his/her home and educational environment, and analyze the impact of the impairment on academic success.
Importance of Observations and Rationale for a Rating Scale
Systematic observation and contextualized analysis is a form of informal language assessment that includes multiple observations across various environments and situations (Westby et al., 2003). According to IDEA (2004), such types of informal assessment must be used in conjunction with standardized assessments. Section. 300.532(b), 300.533 (a) (1) (I, ii, iii); 300.535(a)(1) of IDEA states that, “assessors must use a variety of different tools and strategies to gather relevant functional and developmental information about a child, including information provided by the parent, teacher, and information obtained from classroom-based assessments and observation.” Utilizing both formal and informal assessments is crucial in order to develop a whole picture of a child’s pragmatic language abilities. By observing a child’s pragmatic language skills via informal observation, examinees can observe key features of social language such as conversations, nonverbal language, and social reasoning. When we consider a clinician’s observations, we do not necessarily observe pragmatic language in everyday situations. Parent and/or teacher input may be beneficial during pragmatic language evaluation because it allows for the assessment to take place in an authentic setting and it is completed by someone who knows the child well and thus, is more likely to be a true representation of the child’s social communication skills (Volden & Phillips, 2010). The IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale provides us with both parent and teacher observation and perspectives of a child’s pragmatic language ability. When observing a child in their natural habitat, the observer gains a clear understanding of their child’s abilities across all domains of communication: form, content, and use. Additionally, many of the “abnormal communicative behaviors” that children with pragmatic impairments may demonstrate may be rare in occurrence (Bishop & Baird, 2001). When given the guidelines of what to look for, parents – who know their children the best – will more than likely be able to think of, and provide numerous examples of pragmatic language impairments. These pragmatic difficulties may not be so easily observed during clinical assessment and observation. Furthermore, it can be important to obtain information on how a child engages with their family, friends, and peers during familiar tasks in order to gain ecologically and culturally valid information on how a child functions and communicates on a day-to-day basis (Jackson, Pretti- Frontczak, Harjusola-Webb, Grisham-Brown, & Romani, 2009; Westby, Stevens, Dominguez, & Oetter, 1996).
During assessment and intervention planning, it is important to consider how social communication may adversely affect educational performance. Previous research has revealed that pragmatic language deficits can be expected to negatively impact a child’s social and emotional well-being (Schalock, 1996). For example, individuals with social communication impairment may participate in fewer peer interactions and are considered to be less preferred communication partners. Students with pragmatic language impairments may engage in less social behaviors such as sharing, cooperation, offering empathy, which are characteristics that have been linked to the development of peer relationships (Brinton & Fujiki, 2005; Hart, Robinson, McNeilly, Nelson, & Olsen, 1995). As a result, children and adolescents with pragmatic difficulties may have a difficult time creating and maintaining friendships. Those with pragmatic language difficulties may have trouble with the understanding, interpretation, and use of social language cues (both verbal and nonverbal) (Weiner, 2004). Additionally, students with social communication deficits may have difficulty with externalizing and internalizing behaviors which have been associated with poor academic performance, high rates of absenteeism, and low achievement (DeSocio & Hootman, 2004; Smith, Katsiyannis, & Ryan, 2011). Moreover, challenging behavior may be observed in children with severe communication impairments (Eisenhower, Baker, & Blacher, 2005; Kodituwakku, 2007). According to IDEA (2004), when a child’s behavior gets in the way of learning, the special education team must develop and recommend “positive behavioral interventions and supports” to be used in the school setting (IDEA, 2004: §300.324(a)(2)(i)).
Contextual Background for Rating Scale Areas
Difficulties in pragmatic language may include: turn-taking in conversation with a peer (e.g., asking questions, add-on comments), staying on topic, creating and maintaining friendships, introducing new/appropriate topics, understanding someone else’s perspective (theory of mind), accepting change, speech prosody (e.g., rising and falling of voice pitch and inflection), and the understanding and use of verbal and nonverbal cues (e.g., facial expressions, gestures, etc.) (Krasny, Williams, Provencal, & Ozonoff, 2003; Shaked & Yirmiya, 2003; Tager-Flusberg, 2003). The current assessment tool is composed of nine areas that address these key social language deficits. Table 1.1 reviews each area as well as provides an example test item taken from the assessment.
Awareness of Social Context evaluates a student’s ability to adequately and appropriately utilize introductions, farewells, politeness, and make requests. These forms of communication are described as essential and considered to be the building blocks to more complex language processes. When students begin to act in socially appropriate ways with teachers and peers, they are more likely to maintain attention when engaged in academic tasks (Eisenberg, Vallente, & Eggum, 2006).
Intent to Socialize takes a look at a student’s interest in interacting with peers, and seeking friendship or companionship. Peer relationships and friendships are critical to school and academic achievement for school-age children (Wentzel, Barry, & Caldwell, 2004; Newman Kingery, Erdley, & Marshall, 2011). Friendships are important in the development of social competences, as well as influencing children’s performance on classroom-learning activities, specifically those that involve collaboration and cooperation (Faulkner & Meill, 1993).
Nonverbal language evaluates a student’s ability to read micro-expressions and nonverbal language. Nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions, have a very important role in social interactions (de Gelder, 2006) and can be just as meaningful as spoken words. Often, nonverbal language can reveal how a person feels, although their verbal communication may be contradictory. An appropriate understanding of non-verbal language is critical in understanding another person, and in turn, it leads to an appropriate verbal response.
Social Interactions takes a look at a student’s active interactions with their peers, friends, and family. Children with language impairments tend to engage less in active interactions than typically developing peers, exhibit poorer discourse skills, and are less likely to offer socially appropriate verbal and nonverbal responses in conversations (Brinton, Fujiki, & McKee, 1998; Landa, 2005). Durkin and Conti-Ramsden (2007) compared friendship quality in 120 adolescents aged 16-years-old with and without SLI. Adolescents with SLI were found to exhibit poorer quality friendships. This study suggests that language difficulties (including social language deficits) may be predictive of poorer quality friendships, which in turn may impact academic success.
Theory of Mind evaluates a student’s ability to understand that other people have different perspectives than their own (e.g., different desires, wishes, and beliefs). Theory of mind is critical for social interactions beginning in early childhood and expanding until adulthood (Gweon & Saxe, 2013). The development of theory of mind is a cognitive milestone as well as a socio-emotional milestone that is essential for social language development and the ability to socially interact and understand others (Miller, 2009). Being able to understand the mind is crucial to the understanding and navigation of one’s social world.
Accepting Change assesses a student’s ability to accept modifications or changes to a plan. Changes of plans occur every day and when changes do occur students should respond in an appropriate manner/not have an extreme reaction. When students need constant reassurance after a change occurs, or he/she has a disruptive reaction, academic performance may be impacted.
Social Language and Conversational Adaptation evaluates a student’s ability to implement appropriate social communication skills during conversation. For example, a student should be able to stay on topic providing appropriate comments and questions. The student should be able to utilize appropriate eye contact, turn-taking, volume, and facial expressions. Additionally, the student should also be able to code-switch depending on who they are speaking with. For example, how a student talks to their peers will be different than how they speak to their teacher.
Social Reasoning assesses a student’s ability to see the “whole picture” or main idea. Sometimes students may have difficulty grasping key points, drawing conclusions and making other inferences from conversation, text, TV programs, and movies (Vicker, 2009). When students focus on irrelevant details, their academic performance can be impacted.
Cognitive Flexibility evaluates a student’s ability to come to terms with the amount of unfairness they observe in the world around them. For example, some students have a very hard time coming to terms with a situation if they view it as unfair or unjust. Students may become frustrated and appear persistent to make things “fair.” In order for students to demonstrate cognitive flexibility they must demonstrate awareness and adaptability.
Table 1.1 – Description of IMPACT Rating Scale Measures
Rating Scale Measure
Awareness of Social Context
Greets peers and staff (teachers, aides, etc.), checks-in with peers and seems aware of what peers are doing during class, recess, and lunch time
For example, when a student walks into class in the morning or after lunch, does he/she look around the room to see who is present, does he/she offer eye contact or smile when they see a friend, or a staff member.
Intent to socialize
Seeks companionship, friendship, attention, and daily interaction with peers; initiates interactions to gain attention; Engages in conversations and playful social exchanges; Able to initiate conversations and gain peers’ attention
For example, before class begins, does the student engage in conversation with his/her peers? Does he/she talk about their weekend? Maybe a TV show from last night? During group projects, does the student speak and converse with other students?
Uses facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures to show emotions.
For example, to demonstrate support/comfort to a peer, the student may frown his/her eyebrows to indicate empathy or disappointment, or the student may smile to share excitement.
Appears to enjoy interactions with others. For example, the student shows interest in interactions during recess, lunch, and group projects
The student may be seen with a group of students and engaging in conversation. The student may be participating with verbal comments, questions, as well as non-verbal language, such as smiling, laughter, etc.
Theory of Mind
Engages in pretend play during class activities (e.g., role playing or imaginative play)
Student is able to role-play different scenarios or put themselves in “someone else’s shoes.”
Rating Scale Measure
Accepts changes in routine without excessive reassurance and without showing extreme reactions
For example, the student’s schedule may change, maybe there is an assembly or PE class has been cancelled. The student is able to accept the change and go on with their day without a noticeable negative reaction – it’s okay to show some disappointment or confusion, but it’s not an extreme reaction
Social Language and Conversational Adaptation
Able to stay on topic providing appropriate comments and questions without switching topic abruptly
For example, the student can provide 2-3 comments and/or questions regarding a given topic
Demonstrates difficulty seeing the “whole picture” during lectures and shows difficulty grasping main idea or key points and excessively focuses on irrelevant details.
For example, during class discussion, student may write down everything the teacher says or is unable to highlight the most relevant and meaningful key points.
Excessively insists on fairness
For example, every week students line up alphabetically to go to lunch. A student may insist that this is not fair and that they should rotate the order each week. The teacher explains to the student that she understands what he/she is saying but it’s just too difficult to organize and change every week, the student will not let it go and insists on the line up being “fair”
Administration of the Rating Scale
Professionals who are formally trained in the ethical administration, scoring, and interpretation of assessment tools and who hold appropriate educational and professional credentials may administer the IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale. Qualified examiners include speech-language pathologists, school psychologists, special education diagnosticians and other professionals representing closely related fields. It is a requirement to read and become familiar with the administration, recording, and scoring procedures before using this rating scale and asking parents and teachers to complete the rating scales.
As described in Standard 6.7 of the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (AERA et al., 2014), it is the examiner’s responsibility to protect the security of all testing material and ensure confidentiality of all testing results.
Eligibility for Testing
The IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale is appropriate to use for individuals between the ages of 5-0 and 21-0 years of age. This rating scale is designed for individuals who are suspected of or who have been previously diagnosed with a speech sound disorder. The rating scale also addresses the potential impact that an articulation or phonological disorder may have on a child.
EASY TO FOLLOW STEPS
Complete the CLINICIAN online rating form that will calculate student age and raw scores for you!
Email or Text links to the online rating form to TEACHER(S) and PARENT(S), and get the results back by email (or printed pdfs).
Easily convert scores and use our report generating widget to generate a ready-to-use write-up for your assessment report.
Theoretical Background of the IMPACT Social Communication Rating Scale
Pragmatic language, or social communication, refers to the ability to use both verbal and nonverbal language across various contexts and social situations. Pragmatics differs from the structural aspects of language that are considered to be independent of context, such as phonology, syntax, and semantics (Camarata & Gibson, 1999). Pragmatic language ties together all parts of language comprehension and oral expression and allows for effective communication to take place. When deficits in social language occur, there may be significant disruptions in communication (Norbury, 2014). These disruptions may impact a child’s ability to function at home, school, and with their peers (Russell, 2007; Russell & Grizzle, 2008). Simply put, pragmatics can be defined as an individual knowing when to say what to whom and how much (Hymes, 1971). Of course, this is a very broad, simplistic definition and pragmatics is composed of much more. Prutting and Kirchner (1987) describe pragmatic language skill as the ability to use language in various situations for a specific purpose.
When students present with social language deficits, they may have difficulty with greetings, turn-taking skills, introduction of new topics, topic maintenance, the ability to respond to verbal cues from others, the ability to code-switch or change a message to the needs of a listen, or the ability to understand sarcasm, jokes, and metaphors (Bignell & Cain 2007; Camarata & Gibson, 1999; Perkins, 2010, Russell, 2007). In addition, students may have difficulty with non-verbal language such as maintaining adequate eye-contact and gaze, body language, micro expressions of the face, gestures, and intonation or prosody (Prutting & Kirchner, 1987). When pragmatic language impairments go undiagnosed and untreated, there can be a large, negative psychosocial impact for the child. Social language deficits can impact a child’s academic success as well as their mental health status, social integration, and future employment prospects and occupation success (Whitehouse, Watt, Line, & Bishop, 2009). There is a clear need for the identification of students with pragmatic language difficulties, because without appropriate intervention and treatment, quality communication cannot occur, which can result in long-term psychosocial problems.
Pragmatic language deficits affect many of our students, many who present with high functioning autism and social communication disorder. By observing student’s in their natural environment and assessing their social language skills, diagnoses can be made and interventions can be implemented. The identification of students who present with pragmatic language impairments cannot be understated. Pragmatics required specialized education and support.