to Conduct a Vocational Communication Assessment
This is an
edited transcript of the presentation. You may want to refer to the
companion PowerPoint for additional information. In order to capture
the feel of the live presentation, comments and questions from the
participants are included. These are indicated by Participant. Part
of the presentation was a videotape of a person who is deaf and low
functioning. A report about this person is attached (Appendix A).
The participants used a Worksite Observation form (Appendix B). Headings
were added to aid the reader with location of information in the text.
Contact information is at the close of the article.
Why do people
want assessments? Because they have things that bug 'em! They like
to find the answers to questions that bug 'em
they go and they
get assessments, they answer the questions about the bugs
it is that is actually bothering them.
to find out about a person's communication skills and it is a lot
like wandering around. They wander around and look and try to figure
things out, particularly when you are talking about people who are
deaf and low functioning.
I use the
term low functioning deaf or LFD with a caveat. That is the term that
legislators understand, LFD has been used in the language that funded
some centers to serve persons who are deaf and low functioning. There
is also the 25th institute on Rehabilitation Issues that describes
serving individuals who are deaf and low functioning. Personally,
I do not particularly like the word but if it helps people outside
the field to understand people who are deaf and low functioning, then
that is the word I will use. So if you will bear with me when I refer
to people who are deaf and low functioning or LFD, that is what I
am talking about. What do you consider some of the characteristics
of people who are deaf and low functioning?
A lack of life information.
Okay, a lack
of life information, as caused by?
Depending on where they grew up, how they grew up, what their background
Yes, the social,
cultural, educational deprivation is present. And how else do you
For a hearing person, you would consider it broken English, but in
their case their communication skills seem somewhat broken.
communication in English is going to be severely limited. What else
do you see?
right. Social isolation. What else might you see?
Somebody who is very shy.
their social skills are such that their social skills and their interactional
skills are not at a level where they can participate within their
family or school or at work. They are also at risk for-because of
their usual impoverished background, they are at risk of having another
handicapping condition. So you are going to see them with deafness
plus. My experience has been deafness many times is not the primary
disability but secondary. Maybe developmental disability plus deafness.
And then what happens, when you've got two disabilities that are present?
How does the system deal with a person like that?
Usually not very well.
Usually not too well at all. And the service providers do not really
know if you are deaf and have a developmental disability or whether
you are deaf and you have mental health issues. In which system do
you fall? Which professionals provide the services? Professionals
are still arguing over that issue. Regardless, you must do some kind
of evaluation in order to understand where the person who is LFD is
coming from. This brings me to today's objectives.
will cover four topics and a practical exercise. These are:
- Philosophy of Evaluation;
- Uses of Evaluation;
- Tools Used by Vocational
- Practical Application
of an Ecological Technique; and
- Some Comments about
will talk about philosophy, and then some of the uses of evaluation.
Next are the tools that are used by an evaluator and then actually
look at a case study of an individual whom I have known since 1995.
He has been in the states for many years
a very charming man.
Next is an opportunity to conduct part of an ecological assessment.
Finally, everybody writes reports, right? That will be the final area
just so we are all on the same page, this is old stuff, from the World
Health Organization from 1980. It is a way to define disability, it
is presents different ways of evaluating disability. Who defines the
impairment level of disability? In deafness who defines it?
Very good. What does the audiologist do?
The audiologist looks at the-just at where the impairment is and how
much of the impairment is present.
Suppose you have a 90-decibel loss, so-if the audiologist looks at
the impairment, then what's the disability? What's the disability
of deafness? What can't you do if you are deaf?
Yes, you cannot
hear. That is the disability. Now, what is the handicap of deafness?
You can't speak?
speak? No. not really. One of you commented on communication and that
relates back to the disability. What is the handicap? Handicap has
to do with social roles.
Mother, father, teacher?
father, teacher, student, driver, all those. That is where the handicap
level of impairment comes in. It's when you are in a social role.
When you are looking at an individual and how they function as adult,
for example. You have a deaf child in a hearing family. The impairment
of deafness is shown by the fact that the child cannot hear 90 dbs.
The disability is that the child cannot hear and this causes a handicap
when the child is in the role of a daughter within a hearing family.
If you take that same deaf daughter and you place her in a deaf family
with a mother and father who communicate, will there be a handicap?
There could be.
No. Probably not.
be, yes. Of course there always could be, but probably not. At least
from a communication perspective, because the parents communicate
with the child.
And then what
is an accommodation? Can you give me an example?
Bring an interpreter.
Absolutely right. So, what does an interpreter do?
Yes, a communication
bridge. All of those are changes or adaptations or modifications to
the communication environment. Right? When there is one person here
and another person there and they both know sign language and they
communicate back and forth, there is really no need to change the
environment, correct? The environment-the communication environment
stays the same. Now if you have a hearing person and a deaf person
and the hearing person does not know sign language, then you bring
in an interpreter. You made a change in the environment, right? That
is an accommodation.
definition is from the World Health Organization and over 20 years
old. The definition is firmly based in the medical model. Actually,
there is a new definition that is in use. The new definition has four
factors related to the individual and nine factors related to the
environment. This definition is from the National Institute on Disability
& Rehabilitation Research. They produced a synopsis of the writing
that was done about disability.
What are some
of the individual factors? Personal, biology, behavior and resources.
Those are things that the individual brings to the assessment
to the communication. There are certain personal characteristics-the
individual's family has influenced. What is biology going to determine?
Whether or not they are able to hear
It may be
genetically linked, that's right. What else is biology going to determine?
Whether or not there are other development disabilities involved.
may be DD there, as well. What are some more basic things that are
going to have an impact on the individual? Gender is one, race is
one, and their physical abilities, some people are going to be better
at doing things. How many of you have ever met a deaf person that
had lousy sign language skills? Not the fact that they did not communicate
well, they just had very poor sign language skills. They were sloppy
with the way they made their finger spelling, they were lazy with
the way they signed. They communicated just fine but technically the
signs were not there. The lack of eye-hand coordination may contribute
to this problem.
do you think behavior influences how you are going to be received?
Yes, of course.
resources? I met-I don't see him in here. I met a gentleman who is
going to speak later about services for deaf native Americans in Alaska.
I suspect that resources available there are different from the services
for deaf native Americans in Wisconsin or in the sate of Washigton,
right? Those are some of the factors that are related to the individual.
And then you
have factors that are related to the environment where the individual
lives. There is a natural factor. Would you rather live here or in
Miami, FL? The climates are quite different and do make a difference.
Definitely. The individual you are going to meet later, whose name
is Chay, you will see some real strong cultural influences that are
happening with him.
environments, particularly those people with physical disabilities,
but also have you visited the National Technical Institute of the
Deaf? They have-it's not an auditorium but a visitorium. Because it
is built for visual communication.
modalities and the healthcare delivery system are also factors. As
problem plagued as our healthcare delivery system is here-my deductible
doubled this year. I would still rather be here than some other places
I have visited.
also considers the big picture-economy, policy and law, and then resources
and opportunities that are available. Those are some of the environmental
factors that influence how a person communicates and survives on a
of Medical & Interactional Models
views of disability have led to a conflict in models-of the way that
a person with disability is perceived. You have a medical model versus
an interactional model. The medical model looks at disability as a
deficiency or an abnormality. Something is wrong with the person.
They have to be fixed. I work with an audiologist, and I say that
there is more to the deaf person than the ear and sticking a hearing
aid in it. There is a whole person associated with that ear. And the
audiologist just cannot see beyond the ear. The ear is broken and
will be fixed one day. That is the medical model. They view disability
as a deficiency. And the disability takes place in the individual
so it's the individual's fault
On the other
hand you have the interactional model which says disability is difference,
it's a neutral, it's an interaction between the individual and the
society. Go to Gallaudet. How many students at Gallaudet are disabled
in that environment? Who is disabled in that environment? New faculty
who do not sign. That is who is disabled. Hearing graduate students
who do not sign. Those are the ones that have the disability, not
the deaf students.
The two models
are definitely in conflict. What the medical followers are trying
to do is to cure or to fix the individual with the disability, and
then when you apply the interactional model you change how the person
interacts with the environment. So you stick a hearing aid on someone
or a cochlear implant, then you are doing something to normalize the
individual, this is the medical mind set. Whereas with the interactional
model, what you do is to look at the environment, how all those factors-those
13 factors, how those all work together or interrelate. In the medical
model who is the agent of change usually?
The professional, the doctor.
Yes. And then
in the interactional model it can be the individual, it can be the
professional, it can be anybody who can effect that particular relationship.
Actually there has been a paradigm shift from the medical model to
the interactional model.
of assessment is to assess and to predict. Assessment involves a measurement
of capacity and capability. Capacity is objectively measured, you
can objectively measure worker traits, coordination and dexterity.
And capability is subjectively measured. You can have tests and measure
the capacity of things, but it's really difficult to measure the capability
of things, isn't it?
get a paper and pencil, ready? See this cup? What is the capacity
of this cup? Write your answer.
About six ounces.
is the capacity. You have measured it. It is done. Using the same
cup, you have 60 seconds to write down as many things as you can think
of to do with that cup
time's up. Now, count your answers. How
many did you get? Who got 10? Who got 15? 16? 17? Great
would just read one off your list and then we'll go around and see
what some of the uses of this little cup were. Start with you.
(List from participants)
Drink from it, like a cup
Put it on a doll for a hat
Use it as a vase
First aid supply
To scoop sand in the sandbox
Basketball in your trash can
Use it to scoop water
Use it to cover something
Something to hold in your hand
Do you see
all the different things you can do? It's so easy to measure capacity.
This silly little cup has six ounces. It can hold six ounces of liquid
or sand or whatever you put in it. Capability is far more difficult
to measure. We just spent one minute and came up with probably close
to 40 to 50 different uses for one cup. For those of you who are evaluators,
how come it is that when you get somebody that is low functioning
the job recommendations are always the same?. Explain that to me.
If you can sit around and find 30 different uses for a one-cent cup
and you have a human being over here with all the richness that that
human being brings to the table, then I'm perplexed. So that is part
of the challenge to you, is to think about the capabilities of human
beings who come your way. That is the nature of assessment.
of the assessment is to diagnose what is and to prognosticate or to
give a prognosis as to what may be. Again, you have examples of-you
can give specific examples of behavior. Picks nose with right finger
up to second joint. That is a specific behavior that you can- you
can document that, right? But to prognosticate or to guess what may
be the probability of success is an extremely difficult task to do.
Right? Think about your own vocational development. When you entered
college were you able to predict what job you were going to have with
a degree of specificity four years later or six years later? Probably
not. It's difficult to do but that is part of assessment and that
is what we try to do.
an assessment you use two types of technology. You assess the capabilities
of individuals and diagnose vocational assets and limitations. You
assess the capacities and you have to predict capabilities and offer
a prognosis. That is really what evaluations are about.
three levels of evaluation and it is important to understand these
because I am building a case for the conduct of an ecological evaluation.
I have found most people that have not done one, they-if you just
jump into ecological evaluations that it is like, what are you talking
First is the
screening level, second the clinical level and third is the vocational
evaluation or vocational assessment.
level is screening. An example is a short intake-type interview, nothing
real in depth. And very comparable to-do any of you work with employment
agencies or placement services? When an applicant goes into an employment
service, especially for temp to hire, they do a quick screening interview-what
is your background? Where do you want to work? What kind of transportation
do you have? Those types of questions-that is what we are talking
about, not real in-depth.
Next are physical
abilities tests. Have any of you administered the Snellen Tumbling
E eye chart? When you go into the optometrist's office and there is
a chart with Es on it and you have to point which way the Es are pointing,
that is the tumbling E chart.
are another type of screening. Can you please pick up this 20-pound
object and bring it over here? Also included are dexterity tests and
achievement tests. Do those types of tests sound familiar? They represent
Level 1 of assessment.
Level 2 is
the clinical level of assessment. In clinical you take a detailed
personal history of the individual and you look into-take into account
all of the background information. You secure and synthesize other
professional reports. I do not know about here, in Seattle, there
may be a few more resources than we have in Rockford, Illinois. In
Rockford and within a 100-mile radius, excluding downtown Chicago,
there are really no psychologists who have deafness training and are
practicing. And there is no social worker at the MSW level in the
area either. Once you leave Chicago and start heading west toward
the Mississippi River, it is rural out there.
You have to look at other professional reports. If you have a psychological
on someone who is deaf and low functioning and there is no mention
of some-of communication in the report, what are you going to do about
that report? Are you going to accept it at face value?
I see one
person over there who is just throwing that report away.
You have to
look at the individual and you have to look at the report. If you
have a person who is a graduate of a rural mainstream program in another
state-and you see the person here in Washington with a psychologist's
report that is from a general psychologist, it is probably fairly
accurate, because the deaf culture, the deaf community, sign language,
is not present or used by the individual. The reason it may be fairly
accurate is because the person has been socialized in the hearing
mainstream, not within a school for the deaf. You must look at other
professional reports, and those professionals need to report some
type of one to one interaction with the individual.
Next is a
Level 3 evaluation-it makes use the previous levels. It is here you
bring in some simulated work or job tryouts in different settings.
It is part of the building of the evaluation. You may use some dexterity
tests, you are probably going to talk to the individual and get some
background information. You will use this information along with the
tryouts or work samples to help the person make a vocational decision.
Deafness on Evaluation
How does deafness
impact these three levels?
is probably the least impacted. How difficult is it to administer
the Snellen tumbling E eye chart? Do you need the best interpreter
in the state to help with the administration of this screening devise?
Probably not. This is true for level A psychometric tests. There is
just not a lot of interaction and the instructions are-for the most
part-straight forward and easy to understand.
your more simple tests, like the Wide Range Achievement Test, commonly
called the WRAT, is another example of a test that can be administered
fairly easily without being that sophisticated.
At the clinical
or second level, you need a very skilled clinician, because you need
someone who is going to know how to interpret reports and have a one
to one interaction with the individual. What happens when you have
a significant interaction and you put an interpreter in the mix? What
happens to the relationship? Is it the same or different?
It is different.
is different. And you also need to have valid tools that you can use.
are you to be an evaluator? You need to know three things. You need
to know how to conduct an vocational evaluation. Who has a master's
degree in vocational evaluation or is a certified vocational evaluator?
I've got an M.S. in education but not in vocational evaluation.
an evaluation you must know vocational evaluation, you must know the
discipline of evaluation.
also have to have communication skills. Who has communication skills?
Who knows sign language? At any level. You feel comfortable communicating
one to one? You may not have platform interpreter skills but you can
sit down and tell jokes? You are probably all right in this area.
and knows deafness? Who can read an audiogram? Who has read books
on Deaf culture? Good--you know about deafness.
You must know
all three in order to provide the service. You have to know evaluation,
sign language and deafness.
How is Evaluation
Now that you
have completed an evaluation-who uses the evaluation? How does the
individual with a disability use the evaluation? Do they use it?
What about a person who is deaf and low functioning? I think they,
for the most part, would not understand it. They would have to have
it explained to them. And what it can be used for.
would agree with you. The report probably would need to be interpreted,
but the evaluation itself, does a person with a disability get anything
out of it?
No, they could know their strengths and weaknesses.
It is neat
when you are working with somebody and they go, "oh, I didn't
know I could do that". And then who else uses evaluation?
Yes, the VR
counselor uses it. Why do they use it?
To know the skills and abilities of the customer.
VR counselor wants to know that. And those skills and abilities that
the customer has or consumer has-I never know it varies from state
to sate, is it consumer, client, customer, individual with the disability.
I never know which term. So which term do you use?
You can use all of the above. It works
in Washington we now use
individual with the disability and the person that is paying for the
service. Those of you who are VR counselors, how many of you have
a caseload of 35?
than 35? How about a hundred? Higher? 150? 150? 175?
210 across 17 counties in North Carolina
That is quite a lot, the usual caseload I see is between 100 to 125.
Who else has got a caseload? Anybody, what is your?
is the more usual size. Of that 120, do you know all their names and
everything about them?
That is another reason a counselor will pay for an evaluation, because
he or she needs the information to make some decisions.
The job placement
specialist may want the evaluation because? The individual is going
to be going to work. Advocates probably will also want that information
because many times advocates must do systems work with the local independent
living center, housing, transportation and other systems in the community.
It is more than just going to work. So you must have some tools
tools look like these dancing couples. You can either have the real
formal tools or you can have the informal tools. Formal tools are
based on science, they are standardized, they have standardized instructions,
they are reliable in the statistical sense of reliability and they
are valid. Think back. Go back to grad school. What is reliable?
Consistent over time.
over time. And what is valid?
Does the test measure or says what it is going to measure.
Yes, it measures
what it purports to measure. So the tests are standardized. And what
is the reason for having standardized, valid and reliable instruments?
To know that
the data is trustworthy across the board. Absolutely. Now, an ecological
assessment, which is why you are here, is based on the situation,
and where may the situation be?
On the job, in the school.
the job, in the school, at home. It is individualized, and it is for-it
is based on where the individual-where they are in their environment,
and as you get new data you change how you are doing things. As you
find out more about the situation-know that it is true for the individual.
It is not true for everybody. It is just true for that one person.
work samples like the VIEWS, or the Vocational Information and Evaluation
Work Samples, or the VALPAR, those types of systems that are out there.
They are constructed like tests. The results have a certification
focus. For vocational evaluators, you are certifying that, yes, the
individual can go to work or no, they can't. That is the kind of certification
you are doing, which is different than the school-based certification,
which is determining eligibility. This type of evaluation does have
a place. Whereas an ecological evaluation uses tools like interview
forms, check lists, behavioral recording and rich descriptions. Rich
descriptions is another way of saying what?
narrative. Lots of narrative. Lots of explanation. And the results
are very, very intervention focused. So, when you look at the tools,
the commercial systems that are used, you look at standardization,
interpreting difficulty, those are the things that evaluators use
when they are testing people. Standardization-may be described as
scripts that the tester uses to make sure that the test is given the
same way each time. Standardization does not take into account cultural
variables. When you change a standardized test into sign language
do you have the same test?
Does the same
interpreter use the same exact signs every time?
you violated standardization, right? So your test is most likely invalid.
information, is based on standardization principles and norms are
for purposes of comparison of performance. The only commercial evaluation
systems that have norms for people who are deaf are the VALPAR and
the Street Survival Skills Questionnaire or SSSQ from the McCarron-Dial
system. Those are the only two.
got a person who is a 35-year-old deaf male who wants to go back to
work and you are giving the Valpar with the deaf norms, would that
be the kind of comparison you would want? Do you think that is who
you would want to compare him with? Want to compare how the customer
does against other deaf people? Let me throw out a little bit more
information. The deaf norms are 50 high school students from the Western
Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, the norms are outdated and inadequate
You do not want to use them.
And the SSSQ,
is a series of questions about daily living skills. If you are in
an environment like the individual's home, all that stuff is there
anyway, so my question is-why give the test? Ask the individual, do
you use a can opener? How do you use it? Would you show me, please?
How do you get from here to the store, and those types of things.
That leads to the conduct of an ecological evaluation.
I like Oliver
Sachs. This quote is from one of his articles about a man with Tourette's
syndrome, and Sach's wrote
What is this man's life? So we went outside. I saw him in the street,
and in the world, and then I understood him better.
Sach's could not understand in this particular instance how a person
with Tourette's syndrome could be a successful artist and businessman.
Sach's wanted to understand that situation, and it made sense after
going with the man as he went about his daily activities.
What you have
is an ecological evaluation, where you use observation, you use a
checklist. It has a protocol for interviewing people, you may have
some key questions that you are going to ask. You are going out--into
the environment is where you are going to do the assessment. Along
the way you will try to identify some supports while you are out there.
that I use and have used for several years is called Assessing Workplace
Communication Skills with Traditionally Underserved Persons Who Are
Deaf. It was published a few years ago by the Northern Illinois University
Research and Training Center. This publication is available through
the PEPNet Resource Center. They have about 150 copies. And if it
is on line at the MCPO Web site, the Midwest Center for Postsecondary
Outreach, and that is www.mcpo.org in PDF format. Greg Long is the
author. It's been a good technique and it's a lot more fun than giving
tests and work samples.
has four parts. First you have to compile a consumer communication
profile. What level of evaluation would that be? Where you develop
a consumer communication profile, where you would have an in-depth
interview and secure other reports and professional information?
Did you say
clinical? Right, it is the clinical level of assessment. Who said
it? You? Thanks.
It is the
Level 2 kind of clinical assessment because you are actually going
to look at and interact with the person-you will also use reports
from other people.
The next step
is to look at the communication environment followed by an analysis
of the match between the individual and the environment. You have
to determine where there is a match or a hit and where there is not
is based on a gap or deficiency analysis approach. This represents
a more natural approach to doing assessment. Your final step is to
identify any needed interventions and natural supports that are there.
That is the process-develop a communication profile, describe the
communication environment, determine a consumer-environment match
and finally identify interventions and natural supports.
And I thought
that probably for the next couple of hours we'll walk through the
process. Is that the okay? Did I build my case for the use of an ecological
assessment? See my lens and where I am coming from? and how I have
abandoned the tests and the standardization? I have not used tests
as a primary data source since 1990. And like I said, it is a lot
of fun, I have been in some neat places, I have been in some funky
places, and met some great people along the way.
You have a
case, and the individual's name is Chay. You have some background
information on him-actually it is initial prep work for a report on
Chay. You are an evaluator and you have been asked by your vocational
rehabilitation counselor to perform a communication assessment with
Chay because he has decided that he is tired of staying around the
house. He wants to go to work. You have access to a fairly large urban
complex, with food service, clerical, small grocery store, offices
and the like. You know that he lives in an area with a large meeting
complex like this with food functions and grounds to maintain and
janitorial services. You know a little bit about Chay, and so what
you are to do in the next couple of hours is to build a knowledge
of him and to build a knowledge of the environment so that you can
know him, know the environment, make a match, see where interventions
or natural supports need to be put in, and then write a report. But
I am only going to take you to the writing section. So I think it
helps if you will. form a group of about four people. Get with them.
Take about 10 minutes and look over Chay, read the report, and then
we will come back and talk some about it. (Discussion off the record.)
(See Appendix A).
did you think of Chay?
Funny little guy.
Yes, he is
personable-is he ready to go to work? Probably. What about his communication?
What do you know about it?
He gets his point across. Though it is very limited.
His family usually orders him around and he either complies or he
communication is one way, pretty much, and he follows orders. Home
signs, yes, he has got it. What else do you know about him?
Likes meeting other people.
He is a pretty
friendly kind of guy. Very charming, as a matter of fact. What else
do you know about him? What do you think- now, your job is to place
him so what do you think about placement stuff? Are you ready to go
or do you need some more information?
We need a lot more information.
of information do you need about Chay?
Does he want to work.
assumption, yes, he wants to work.
What does he enjoy doing?
You have to
ask him that. And I think you will pick up on some of those things.
You are going to meet him via video, not in person. I know he would
be glad to come with me but we could not do that. So what else might
you want to know about him?
What are his supports, transportation.
transportation. I think you will find some of the transportation issues.
I would also want to know the interaction of-he is a man with multicultural
diversity, he is a man who is deaf, who is Laotian, so that has to
be that taken into consideration. There are a lot of different factors.
I have to know not only what is he like but also how is he going to
interact with all those cultures.
See what happens
when you start asking questions you generate even more questions.
We are obviously not going to be able to answer all of those. But
you see the process you go through in asking those types of questions
and asking them of the data? Because you have the data there. That
is the information you have. This information was prepared by Gary,
a job placement specialist, who talks with Chay, and knows him real
well. This is some information that Gary chas pulled together for
you to review. Those are some of the kinds of things that are going
to happen when you do this ecological assessment. It is a very different
mind set from giving tests because you start asking questions of the
data which generates more questions, and you keep going on and on,
until you find out, until you are just saturated-you go through that
process of asking these questions.
I have a question. You say asking the questions. I mean, I like this
process but many times the folks that come to see us ask-they cannot
tell you, they do not have a clue, so do you branch out, then, after
you have gleaned all the information that you can from the individual
themselves to their support structures like family and so forth and
keep asking these same things?
And you are going to get different and conflicting information. My
favorite story-I got called to Back Door, Wisconsin. It is a little
town. A no stoplight town. The only industry there other than dairy
farming was a supply/hardware store for the farmers. It was huge-thousands
of square feet. The local sheltered workshop had placed this deaf
guy on a job at the super store, he was going to lose his job because
he was not communicating. The man reportedly had no language or communication
skills and was mentally retarded.
So I go into
the store and ask where is he? I go up to him and finger spell "hi",
and he responded by fingerspelling "hi" back to me. I was
thinking okay? and sign "How are you?" to which he replied
"fine". We had a pleasant conversation about work and the
weather--communicated back and forth. Jumping to the bottom line of
the story, the service providers there, the supported employment staff
did not know sign language, and they were like you (the deaf man)
didn't tell us you knew sign language. His response was, "you
never ask". I interpreted their reply which was "why didn't
you teach us", and I love his response. "It's not my job
to teach you hearing people sign language". That is an example
of conflicting information that you may encounter.
As it turns
out, the problem was he worked all over the store as the utility person,
and the place was huge. His supervisor could not find him. That was
the problem. He would be in the back mixing chemicals for cleaning
and then be needed up front to shovel snow. Guess what I recommended
a numeric system, one, go here, two-you know, and solved the problem.
You do not
need me. You all can do this stuff. It involves going in and asking
the right questions. And you ask the questions of the data just like
you were saying, and you ask the questions of informants who are there.
They can help you. Expect the reports to be conflicting. For example,
look for what I call mom cues. Mom while shaking her head no, "Do
you want to go to work? The person responds, "no".. Mom
then says "See, I told you he didn't want to go to work".
Mom this time shaking her head yes, asks "Do you want to draw
Social Security?" and the person replies "yes". You
may see that type of communication from the parent to the child. You
ask those questions of the people that are around, the employer, the
other people providing services, because you never know what you are
going to get into when you start going into the field and you give
up the security of being in the lab. You just never know what you're
going to find out.
What we have
is a 10-minute informal interview between Gary, who is a job placement
specialist at the Center for Sight & Hearing in Rockford. He is
also one of the top interpreters in the state of Illinois. He has
worked with Chay on and off for several years. Personally, I have
worked with Chay for the last 7 years. Gary talks with Chay about
work and some personal things. They do sign throughout the interview
and Gary voices for Chay.
watch them communicate, there are two or three things that you need
to look for. The most basic thing is-what information is gotten across,
and then how is it conveyed? What kinds of signs are used? When is
Chay initiating communication and when is Gary initiating the communication?
What is going on between the two? You are not only looking at the
messages or the content that is going across but also looking for
those points of interaction.
I brought up Gary's interpreting skills and his long-term knowledge
is because Gary misunderstands some of the communication, and what
happens then? When Gary misunderstands, look what Chay does. So we
will watch the conversation for about 10 minutes and then we can chat.
What do you
know about Chay now that you didn't know before?
He is happy and smiles all the time.
He is always
smiling. He is very charming.
He has picked up a lot of sign language. He has improved a lot in
It is interesting
that his mime skills have deteriorated as his sign skills have increased.
He's still adept at mime. What else did you notice about him?
He loves communicating.
Yes, he does.
He wanted to make sure he was understood. There are more things that
he seems more capable of doing.
You would think when he went to the sheltered workshop, learned how
to be a janitor, well, from watching him and listening to him, there's
many more things he can do.
what kind of things did you notice about his communication skills?
What did you notice about his-the communication between the two of
them, the process of communication, not the content?
He understands when there's miscommunication.
example of that?
They were talking about night, day and his work schedule hours. He
gestured-huh? What? At first when the interviewer misunderstood him,
communication then broke down. I mean, he knew that it was a breakdown
but then he tried to repair it in whatever way he could.
Yes, he did
a good job with that. It had just snowed that morning and that was
his sign for snow and Gary thought it was children. It seemed that
Chay thought "I'm not talking about the children here".
I thought Chay did a good job with that. What else did you see?
He doesn't have concept of time, you know. I mean, between 1991 and
the time he met Gary?
He has concept
of present and past, but identifying specific years
Yes, he is
going to have some problems with that. However, given his educational
background, he is 54 years old and really had no formal education
until he came to the states in '91. So his ability to talk about time-sometimes
you have to be a little patient. Did you notice when Gary said Monday
through Friday, he had to stop between each sign and sign the entire
week? Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, five days. And
you have to be patient with Chay. And then the clarification of the
work schedule. Gary is saying, when do you start and when do you stop?
Chay responds by reviewing the entire day, "7 bus, 8 arrive,
start work, 10, eat, break time. Then 11, work, 12, eat, 1 work, 2
finish, 3 home. He knew those times, and he was aware. But it's like
rote learning, and that is the way he responded to the question. So
what else did you notice about him?
He tends to respond to questions. He didn't offer a lot of information
until he'd been asked something.
is still fairly passive.
His body language suggests that too. He sits very much back in his
chair, kind of slanted in the corner, and I don't know if that was
the setup of the room initially, but even the way he sat, his legs
were more forward, he was back.
That is pretty
typical of his behavior. He is a little bit stilted. We had to warm
him up for a good while before the video.
Does his family speak English now?
One of his
brothers is fairly good in English and we usually talk with him. The
same brother is the primary contact. What did you think of his living
situation? His mother speaks no English. Some of the children who
are in the home speak English. I still don't know who lives in the
house he lives in. I see different people going in and out. But it
works for them. Anything else? What about his family?
Seems there is a lot of communication struggle. There was some-related
to Chay-you asked him a whole lot of questions. He was nonverbally
saying that is enough, that is enough, he was communicating that nonverbally.
People who communicate not too well, they are not fluent in a formal
language, then, communication is stressful and there's only a certain
amount the person can put up with.
point. That stress is in the interview process itself and some of
it is imposed because of this videotape. I worked with him for several
months to get this videotape done.
I notice the interviewer asked a lot of questions. He was really giving
a lot of the information himself. And it seemed like instead of throwing
all that information at him, if he could just give him some space
to answer. There was not a whole lot of dialogue back and forth; it
was a lot of it was initiated by the interviewer.
part of the interview was compressed for today's presentation. In
an actual interview non-compressed time, there would be a lot more
ebb and flow, Chay wouldn't be videotaped, and it would not happen
in a sterile office like that. We'd be over at Chay's house sitting
around the table just chatting. That is how that would occur. This
was artificial. But again, to try to just focus on the communication
that occurred, that is the reason we chose that particular method
I think it is interesting to note that how much longer it takes to
get information when the communication skills are low like that, because
when they were talking about the time and he had to go through the
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and all that. If you are talking with another
client and you're both using the same language-you would just say,
what are your hours? And the person would say Monday through Friday
9:00 to whatever. That process would be less than two minutes. The
way Chay communicated it could take up to 10 minutes to get the whole
And so it is a very long process to 210 people on a caseload. That
would be difficult.
you wouldn't have 210 people with that level of communication.
And you also have to figure out the context. When Chay is talking
about the bus and he said 11, Gary was trying to figure out 11. 11
people on the bus? You heard him verbalize that, and he said 11? And
yet Chay was talking about going on Bus 11 on 11th Street. I don't
have 210 clients but I would say 99 percent of mine have that level
of communication. I have experienced that before. It takes so long
to figure out something question after question.
I have one about him. Is he always that happy?
He is pretty
positive. We like having him around because he will come around-visit
staff. He has some verbalizations that we think are probably Laotian
and he will come to your office, mumble something and then giggle.
Especially after he got his teeth. His teeth were hurting him and
he was not quite as happy. But once he got those dentures-he did all
I think he had a mixture of actual American sign language and he had
some mental or home sign language, because I know the interpreter
was trying to get him to see if he put wooden poles in the ground.
The client thought the interpreter asked the client if he was cutting
wood, and I think that gets people confused. When the client has some
formal sign language and literal or home signs that they use for their
work and environment
good point. Again, Gary's known him for 11 years, 12 years, and they
still have miscommunication. Even though Gary is very skilled.
I noticed that Chay didn't initiate a lot of conversation but there
were a couple of times when he did. That was when he was talking about
what he did at the sheltered workshop, he seemed very proud of that,
and then the second time was his hours. The stuff that he knew about-that
he had developed some pride that he learned.
Good. Do you
know what his job was? Did you figure it out?
Like a press operator, wasn't he?
was this sign (gesture of pushing down on something)?
No, it wasn't
crushing. It was shrink-wrap. When you have a toy or something, then
he would wrap the plastic so as to form or cover the object. That
makes a seal and then he hands it to the next person. What do you
know about his coworker relations?
Chay had some friends and they brought hm Christmas presents.
No, his family
gave him the presents. What about work? What did you know about work?
He talked about a girl.
talked about a girl, worked right next to him, so that tells that
there was some communication going on with coworkers.
family is supportive in the sense that they do love him, and they
do what they think is best. Their values are such that because of
his disability he does not need to work. The one brother wants him
to work but the rest of the family says, "no, we can take care
of him". So we are constantly working with the family to try
to assist him to go to work. And he works on and off. He will work
for a while, then he gets bored and he quits and he goes home. He
kind of ebbs and flows there. So you think you know him a little better
than you did?
Good. So you
have got one part of the assessment done, you have gotten to know
him, know some of his communication styles and some of his communication
skills. Now what you have to do is figure out what is going on at
a workplace. For those of you who have done job analysis. It is going
to be a bit more difficult for those who do job analysis, because
when you do a job analysis you are used to going in and looking at
everything that happens on the job. When you do a communication assessment,
you are only looking at the communication. It is like you are putting
on blinders and all you are looking at is the communication that is
occurring between the supervisor and the employee and between employees.
If it is in a customer service area, then look for the communication
between the customers and the consumer. Those are the only things
that you are looking for. You have got a great form, called the work
site observation form (Appendix B).
How many of
you have never done a job assessment? I got a few people that are
new to this experience. There are different ways of conducting field
One, you can
be a silent observer, and you can sit there and you make notes, and
people really do not know what you're doing. If you are going to do
that particular approach you have to be somewhat savvy because when
you stand around somebody and you are looking at them and writing
notes like this, they figure it out pretty quick. So you have got
to be somewhat engaged in a conversation or activity and use your
peripheral vision, make some notes. But you must figure it out.
to gather information is to go ask people. Say something like "I'm
doing an evaluation to determine if a deaf person could do this job,
I'd like to ask you some questions. Do you have a few minutes?"
different ways that you enter in the work place and there are different
types of information that you are going to seek. So you go in and
you don't look so much at the work that is being done, you look at
the communication that is occurring. What types of communication-how
does the supervisor communicate to the employee the particular task
at hand? Is it verbally communicated, is it pictorial, written? How
is it communicated?
And what kinds
of little subtle communications are occurring? If you look at the
individual and you are looking at a particular job, for example a
sacker in a grocery, then you watch that person and see what kind
of communication goes on around the site? How does he or she interact
with the public? Interact with the coworkers? What kind of help do
they do, say, gesture, communicate about what is did, is or going
to happen? You won't know. It is an uncontrolled event. You are going
into an environment that you are not controlling anymore. While you're
looking at those communications you keep the individual in mind. Chay,
now, what kinds of communication is going to be going on here that
I am going to need to pay attention to?
You have several
things to juggle in your mind while you are doing the communication
assessment. One is you are going to have to look at what kind of communication
is occurring at the site, and then processing that at the same time
as what is the context of the communication. Where is it taking place?
What are the environmental factors affecting communication? Who is
involved in the communication and what are their formal and informal
relationships? Later you will have to analyze this information and
factor in the perspective of the consumer. For now, it is up to you
to take a picture of the communication that is occurring so it can
sound fascinating? Isn't that a fun thing to do? Would you like to
have the opportunity to do that? Yes. I'm seeing an unequivocal yes,
I would. It would be a if you know thing to do. So get with your group,
and there's a grocery store right across the street, there is a hotel,
and there is a Post Office. Those are three great sites for all kinds
of jobs and communication, where people who are deaf work may work.
So your challenge-
So are we to go and look for a deaf person working?
No. You do
not look for a deaf person. What you do is you go to one of those
sites and you pick a particular job and you get about a 5-10 minute
sample of the communication that occurs, you make a few notes on your
form and return here. You have 30 minutes to find a location, look
at the communication and make a few notes.
went to job sites.
Is there anybody
who did not go to the grocery store? Everybody went to the grocery
store? How was it?
Felt sorry for the bagger.
Yeah, I heard somebody say, what are these people doing?
Chris and I went to the back of the store. So maybe everybody else
watched the baggers. We watched somebody in the produce.
This is a
different experience if you are not used to going into an environment
like that. What type of communication did you see going on?
Mostly verbal. A little bit of gesturing, some intercom stuff.
Mostly verbal, a little bit of gesture.
Some nonverbal kinds of communication were going on? Okay. You saw
Chay. What kind of communication did you see that was really critical
and you think he'd be able to do?
Customer service part he could do. What else?
Definitely. Be a plus.
What you have
to do-what you do is you have an idea of his skills. He knows some
signs, he is responsive, he does turn taking, he probably follows
instructions, those types of skills. You listed those.
you are observing at the grocery store and the bagger, you saw some
interaction between the bagger and customers, the bagger and other
baggers, the bagger and the cashier, the bagger and the supervisor?
Did you see all those? Okay. You probably would end up doing some
kind of diagram, that is one of the tools that I use, to show the
job in the middle and then little arrows to other people. You start
making notes on how or what types of communication are done. And then
you have to take all of those and prioritize which ones are the most
critical and which ones are the most frequent. You are going to break
down the communication that is going on between the bagger and the
other bagger, the bagger and the cashier, because there is a lot of
interaction between those people. Identify which ones happen most
often. BUT they may not be as critical as some of the others that
are happening, so you have to break those down too. You list all of
them. Next, you match them with Chay's communication skills. What
you are looking for is hits, right? Where-where do the things from
both lists hit? And where do they not hit. Where do they miss? When
you identify those areas that do not hit, then you can provide an
You are looking
at providing some type of training to help the person improve his
or her communication skills. Or you provide some type of environmental
intervention, like the pager for the guy I was telling you about from
Wisconsin. One of your handouts is a list of interventions and national
supports. What would be one or two interventions that you might want
to provide if Chay was going over there to work?
Definitely an interpreter in the beginning.
Maybe an interpreter.
Maybe in the beginning.
Maybe in the
A job coach with sign skills.
A team worker?
team worker, educate an individual. What else might you need?
To set up a simple system between him and the checker, a simple communication
system where he knows between plastic and paper.
a picture of each and just point to one or the other. Those are the
kind of things that this type of evaluation lends itself to very readily.
It is amazing when you do this type of assessment how--when you look
at the skills that the individual has and the requirements of the
job, those things will just jump out at you. It is like they scream
or wave a big red flag at you. This is an intervention that needs
to be here!
And then the
challenge becomes what type of intervention. Is it educating someone
else? Is it providing an interpreter or job coach with sign skills?
Is it changing the environment somehow, carving out job duties, for
example? What is going on? Those are the kind of things that you have
to do. We put a lot of effort into the front-end work today and this
is really the back end pick and shovel work that you are going to
have to do.
Next you have
to write a report. My personal philosophy on reports is that it needs
to be stand-alone, meaning that when you pull it out of the case file
you know who it is about and all the information about that individual.
A report needs to be organized in some kind of logical manner so that
the person reading the report can find the different sections of the
report with ease. Finally, it must address the reasons for the referral.
After all someone is paying for this report and rightfully expects
the report to address specific topics or issues. Those are three areas
to consider-stand-alone, organized and address specific questions.
outline for a report may be as follows. For those of you who are into
accreditation by CARF, this contains information that complies with
information-you need identifying information, some demographics, reasons
for the evaluation, and your sources of information, you need to list
those things. And you have to give some background information about
the individual, including medical, social, cultural identification,
available and used assistive and off the shelf technology, education,
training, vocational, work history, and preferred mode(s) of communication.
It is up to you to report background information that is of significance
to the purposes of this evaluation.
observations-are the bulk of your report. One way to organize your
observations is to address-how does the individual relate on an individual
or personal level? How does the individual relate on a social level?
How mobile is the individual? Then you need to address work behaviors.
There are a lot of ways to organize these. I use the following: attendance,
punctuality, quality & quantity of work, supervisor & co-worker
relations, job tolerance, job flexibility, and safety & rule compliance.
are going to have a whole section on communication. You need to divide
your communication into expressive and receptive and primary and secondary.
You are going to have a lot of rich descriptions about the communication
that you have observed. In order to help the reader understand your
points you have to use in-depth descriptions of the behavior you saw.
You will have a wealth of information to choose from. It is important
that you select those descriptions that help build a realistic picture
and are a clear link to recommendations.
includes the strengths of the individual and what areas need improvement.
are what VR counselors are really paying you for, recommendations.
My philosophy on writing reports is it is broader than just a communication
assessment, so if I see a need for medical, I will recommend a consultation.
For example, if the individual is talking, complaining about night
vision and how "I keep bumping into things", then I will
put that in the report and make a recommendation for a medical evaluation.
Or the boss talks about how the individual has problems managing his
money-"he keeps giving it away". This is an indication of
a need for some training. Those are the kind of things you will see.
So you include that information and recommendations.
One of the
questions that usually comes up is from an evaluator's standpoint
is-how much time is involved? I do about one or two of these a month
now and I have about six to eight hours of actual contact time with
the individual in the field. That also includes talking with the parents
or the employer, getting all that information. And then it takes another
two to four hours to gather the information, synthesize it and write
the report. So anywhere between 12 to 20 hours, depending on the individual.
of thumb is the further away they are from my home base in Rockford
the more difficult the situation. So when I am going 200 miles to
do an evaluation, that tells me I'm going to be really, really busy.
Because the distance is an indication that by the time they have asked
us to come in the situation is usually a mess. So it takes about 20
The cost for
this particular evaluation is $600 plus travel. So for those of you
who are evaluators, you may want to offer this as a new service, for
those of you who are counselors, this may be a service that you would
like to develop.
there are two different ways you can look at assessment. One is the
ecological assessment. You shift from the medical model to the more
interactional model. The view of disability shifts from the individual
to the environment. You look at how the individual relates in the
environment. This assessment is conducted within that environment.
You go there, you look at the individual, how he or she communicates,
gather information from the environment. Part of that environment
will be the work site so you go to the work site. You look at the
communication, see how the bagger communicates with the checker, and
what types of communication is occurring. You do a match or a Gap
analysis. Finally, you determine whether to build on that strength
or provide an intervention. Of course you write the report and then
you are on to your next one if you are an evaluator. That is the process.
Dew, D. (Ed.)
(1999). Improving employment outcomes for persons who are deaf and
low functioning (LFD): Report from the Study Group: Serving Individuals
who are Low-Functioning Deaf. Washington, DC: George Washington University.
[on-line] available: http://www.uark.edu/depts/rehabres/publications.html
Long, G. (1996).
Assessing workplace communication skills with traditionally undeserved
persons who are deaf. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University. Available
from the PEPNet Resource Center (http://prc.csun.edu/ ).
J. (1985). Vocational Evaluation: An Experimental Trend. In Smith,
Christopher, Fry, Ronald (Eds.) Vocational assessment. National forum
on issues in vocational assessment (Atlanta, Georgia, September 20-22,
of Education, National Institute on Disability Rehabilitation Research.
(1998). Notice of long-range plan for fiscal years 1999-2004. Federal
Register 63(206): 57190-57219.
Organization (1980/1994). International classification of impairments,
disabilities, and handicaps: A manual of classification relating to
the consequences of disease. Geneva, Switzerland, World Health Organization.
information please contact
Steven R. Sligar, Ed.D.
Vice President of Community Services
8038 McIntosh Lane
Rockford, IL 61107
was sponsored by the
site at Western Oregon University
Site at the Center for Sight & Hearing in Rockford, IL and
Center for Postsecondary Outreach at St. Paul College, St. Paul, Minnesota.
5-10-48 Age: 54 Gender: Male
Race/Ethnicity: Laotian. Social security #: 111-22-3333.
Address: 987 Anystreet Phone #: 123-456-7890
Bigtown, USA Marital status: single
Current employment: unemployed
hearing loss since birth. The hearing loss is permanent.
Type: mixed. No evidence of the ability to use residual hearing.
Audiological evaluation (1989) showed bilateral, severe to profound,
mixed hearing loss with almost complete lack of sound perception in
the right ear by air conduction.
This individual does not use any type of amplification system.
Secondary Disability Information
Chay is a
4' 11" male with average build. His short dark hair is neat and
he presents himself well. He is in overall good health with no allergies.
When Chay immigrated to the United States in 1989, he received a physical
and was found to have hookworm, Hepatitis B, and dental problems with
several missing teeth. His hookworm and Hepatitis B were successfully
treated and no medications are currently prescribed. His teeth were
pulled and he wears dentures, which not only made him feel better
but also improved his appearance.
There is no significant visual, motor, cognitive or other disabilities
that may affect communication.
Hearing Status Ability to communicate with the individual? How do
Mother Hearing Yes Home-sign language
Brother Hearing Yes Home-sign language
Brother Hearing Yes Home-sign language
Sister-in-law Hearing Yes Home-sign language
Niece Hearing Yes Home-sign language
Nephew Hearing Yes Home-sign language
with his family and helps around the house with cleaning and cooking.
Hearing Status Ability to communicate with the individual? How do
Mother Hearing Fair Home-sign language
Brother Hearing Fair Home-sign language
Brother Hearing Fair Home-sign language
Sister-in-law Hearing Fair Home-sign language
Niece Hearing Fair Home-sign language
Nephew Hearing Fair Home-sign language
spoken at home. The family uses home-sign language only to communicate
the basic needs (bathroom, eat, sleep, sick, go, etc.). Most communication
is one way-the family gives him orders and he complies or not. He
rarely initiates communication.
Chay was born
and grew up in Laos and never attended school because of his deafness.
Chay came to the Center for classes once a week for several years.
Now he does not come to class and is not involved with the Deaf community.
He does go to many of the Laotian activities with his family.
Chay had one
job at a local sheltered workshop. He learned to do basic janitorial
tasks. He learned tasks by demonstration. Professional services were
provided by the Center, the Office of Rehabilitation Services and
the local Independent Living Center to help with communication. The
individual became a good worker and he quit because of the possible
loss of benefits.
Skills and Abilities-General
- Chay uses some sign
language but prefers gestures/pantomime. He understands people
who use some sign language but prefers gestures/pantomime. When
someone asks "How are you" he rote responds with the
sign "Fine! Thank you!"
- He will walk into
a room or within eyesight of an individual and wait until his
presence is acknowledged.
- When he likes or dislikes
something he uses facial expressions and appropriate head motions.
He uses a combination of home-signs, sign language, and gestures/pantomime
to express his needs and to ask for information. Time concepts
are difficult for him.
- When calling Chay
on the phone he always depends on family to communicate.
- Chay will spontaneously
talk about his hobbies, birds or fishing. When conversing with
an individual who is Deaf or a hearing signer, Chay uses a combination
of formal and homemade signs, gestures and pantomime.
- When communicating
with his family he uses a combination of homemade signs, gestures,
and pantomime and his voice. His speech sounds are Laotian though
- When communicating
with non-signers, Chay uses gestures and pantomime. The non-signers
are able to understand Chay.
- During conversation
Chay will become involved in communication and will allow others
to communicate their thoughts (practices turn taking).
- Chay has a friendly
personality and engaging communication style. When he arrived
at the Center for Sight & Hearing he always went to staff
offices and said hi to everyone he saw. He was appropriate in
his greetings in that if he noticed the person was busy, he would
pass by the office. Once engaged, Chay would maintain eye contact,
smile and respond positively to communications.
the following questions should be based on visit(s) to the work site
to observe current employees and the consumer (if already placed).
Observations should be scheduled to occur during times when the consumer
would be (or is) working.
Date(s) and times of observation:
primary work area:
Are there other areas (e.g., lunchroom, social area) where employees
If yes, please
How much time is normally spent in each area?
of communicative interactions occur in each area?
How many co-workers
are in the immediate work area? Are any of them deaf or have other
How much and what type of supervision is available?
How much contact
do the employees have with one another?
Describe the social environment in terms of interactions between co-workers,
supervisor(s), and the public (if applicable):
physical environment in terms of its potential effect on communication.
For example, are there likely to be problems with lighting, excessive
ambient noise, potential visual distractions, etc.?
List specific communication requirements associated with this job:
permission of the author.
Long, G. (1996). Assessing workplace communication skills with traditionally
undeserved persons who are deaf. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University.
Available from the PEPNet Resource Center (http://prc.csun.edu/ ).