child with complex communication needs with communication book
young girl with disability at school
young girl with communication device at school
students with their communication devices at school
young boy with communication support needs in school

Student profile

  • Overview

    It should provide the background information that is relatively constant for a student, such as:

    • Overview of their strengths, challenges, interests and aspirations
    • How they communicate (their communication profile)
    • Their sensory profile
    • What their key needs are
    • Latest academic assessment results/assessments that have been undertaken (including date undertaken)
    • Recommended general strategies for supporting the student to access the curriculum, compiled by allied health professionals/therapists
    • Their diagnosis
    • Contact details for key professionals involved in supporting their development/management (eg medical, allied health, etc)
    • Input from student when they are able

    It is recognised that while diagnostic labelling can be beneficial for students and teachers, it can also potentially have negative consequences (eg stigmatisation; lowered expectations). It is therefore critical for a student to be seen as an individual first, rather than being defined by their diagnosis. A diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, for example, is arrived at via a medical model of deficit identification, and therefore will not necessarily convey the strengths, skills and character traits of the person so labeled. Specifically including information in a student profile on a student’s personality and strengths is a way to address this.

    For further discussion, see UCLA, National Center for Mental Health in Schools, “Just a Label? Some Pros and Cons of Formal Diagnoses of Children: Information Resource”.

    Identifying all these aspects enables a holistic understanding of the student which will assist in the preparation of meaningful and effective individual learning plans (“ILP”). In particular, it should inform the goals and strategies included in an ILP. A student profile should, therefore, exist alongside, or within, a student’s ILP.

    Input from the student can be included in the student profile, or as a separate note/letter given to their teacher and/or classmates, if the student is comfortable to do this. Click here for Sue Larkey’s example of a note for students with a disability to share with teachers and/or classmates.

    The student profile should be made available to all teachers/school staff involved with the student, in order to share as much information as possible about the student to ensure consistency in supports and strategies. It should be updated as often as necessary. A key member of school staff should be identified as having responsibility for keeping the student profile up-to-date and ensuring it is provided to all relevant staff. Families should provide input and review final versions.

    The NSW Department of Education has developed a web based resource to assist with developing individual student profiles. PLASST (Personalised Learning and Support Signposting Tool) assists teachers to identify or ‘signpost’ the educational needs and strengths of students with disabilities and to develop a student profile covering six domains: cognitive, attentiveness to learning, communication, social skills, social adjustment and personal independence. The PLASST allows teachers to input data that is then used to generate a student profile.

    The following is another example of a student profile template, which you can download here:

    Here are some further example student profile templates:

  • Academic and cognitive assessments

    “There are many factors that affect the outcome of the assessment process including:

    • The instruments used… research has shown that [the more well-known instruments and educational tests] may not be the most appropriate as they are designed and standardised using typically developing children and are language based
    • The test situation can be enormously stressful for our kids…
    • Movement difficulties: students on the [autism disorder] spectrum have a variety of movement difficulties, such as initiation and perseveration, and these will affect how they respond to questions requiring physical manipulation of material…
    • Our kids’ other difficulties such as hypersensitivity, sensory overload and obsessive/compulsive ritualistic behaviour preclude them from focusing on a task for prolonged periods of time…”

    In this article by American teenager Emma Zurcher-Long, she discusses how important it is for teachers to not make assumptions about their students’ abilities, and to find assessments that allow these students to demonstrate what they do know.

    What would you do if the whimper in your heart could not find the right words to speak? What if you couldn’t control the things you felt compelled to say, even if you knew those who heard you would not understand? Speaking is not an accurate reflection of my intelligence. Typing is a better method for me to convey my thinking, but it is laborious and exhausting. So what is to be done with someone like me? Is it better to put students like myself, of which there are many, in a segregated school or classroom, is inclusion the better option or is there another answer? I was believed not capable enough to attend a regular school, nor was I able to prove this assumption wrong. In an ideal world these questions would not need to be asked because a diagnosis of autism would not lead to branding a person as less than or inferior. Those who cannot speak or who have limited speech would not immediately be labeled “intellectually disabled” and “low functioning”. We would live in a society that would embrace diversity and welcome all people, regardless of race, culture, religion, neurology or disability. Our education system mirrors our society and in both, we come up short.

    In New York City kids like me are not attending mainstream schools because we are believed to be unable to learn complex subject matter. I was sent to both public and private special education schools, specifically created for speaking and non-speaking autistic students and those believed to have emotional issues. Because I cannot voice my thoughts and so rely on favorite scripts, my spoken language causes people to assume my thinking is simple, I am unable to pay attention and cannot comprehend most of what is said to me. As a result, none of these schools presumed that I, or the other students, were competent and their curricula reflected this. At the private school I attended for six years, I was regularly asked to do simple equations such as 3 + 2 = ? When I said “two”, because that was the last number spoken and my mouth would not form the word “five”, my teachers believed I could not do basic math. It was the same with reading and something as simple as being asked to define the word “cup”. I clearly know what a cup is, but when I could not say it, I was marked as not knowing. This school used the same fairy tale, “Three Billy Goats Gruff”, for three years as the foundation of a “curriculum”. At another school, this time public, while my older brother was learning about World War II and writing essays on whether the United States should have dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, my class was planting seeds in soil and asked what kinds of things were needed for the seed to take root and grow. When my classmates, many of whom could not speak at all, and I could not answer with the words “sunlight” and “water”, it was assumed we did not know the answers or understand the question. At another public school I spent months going over how many seconds are in a minute, minutes in an hour, hours in a day, but when I could not demonstrate that I understood either in writing or spoken language, it was believed I had no concept of time.

    There is no test that allows me to show the creative ways in which I learn. I cannot sit quietly unless I am able to twirl my string, softly murmur to myself and have a timer nearby. I cannot read aloud or answer most questions verbally, but I can type. My mind is lightning fast. I can hear a song and then replay it note for note with my voice. I have an incredibly large capacity to listen, learn and feel. I listen to conversations around me regularly and often wish that some parents would appreciate their children more. The other day on the subway a Mom said, “Shut up, you’re being stupid!” to her son. The boy was silent and put his head down. The Mom proceeded to play a game on her phone. I have learned that everyone is delicate. In that moment my body felt tremendous sadness. I see patterns in unrelated things, such as I am able to notice every article of clothing that someone wears on a given day. People’s attitudes are reflected in their choice of clothing. When the same clothes are worn over and over, I have the feeling the wearer is stuck. People’s self-confidence increases when wearing new clothing. My expansive vocabulary is impressive. I’ve listened to how people put words together my entire life. As I have made sense of the words used, I have been able to understand their meaning, though I am unable to ask for definitions. I notice people’s sadness, even when they are smiling. I almost feel like I am violating someone because I can see inside of them and know their feelings. I’m told I use the written word in unusual and interesting ways. I have been published in magazines and blogs. I give presentations around the country on autism and gave the keynote address at an autism conference this past fall. I am co-directing a documentary, Unspoken, about my life and being autistic and I hope, one day, to be a performer.

    The best education I’ve received to date in a school is at a private non special education school, where none of the teachers or administration has been given “training” in autism or what that supposedly means. They do not believe I cannot do things the other students are able to do. In fact, though I am just fourteen-years old and technically should be in eighth grade, I am doing upper level work. I am treated respectfully by teachers and students alike. My typing is slow, but the class waits for me and gives me a chance to express myself. During a recent Socratic seminar where the students were expected to speak on the book we had just finished, everyone waited for me to type my thoughts and gave me time to have my thoughts on an earlier point, read later. In my theater class the teacher began the semester with non-speaking work. We learned about mime, silent theater and the importance and impact of physicality while performing. I have been asked for what I need in order to excel, and accommodations have been made, I know, but I hope and believe that I am not the only one benefitting from my presence at such a terrific school.

    There is a saying in the disabilities community, “Nothing about us, without us.” A complete rethinking about autism and autistic neurology is needed if special education schools or any schools are going to educate those of us who think differently. Believing in the potential of all students is not on any test. Presuming that each and every student, whether they can speak or not, can and will eventually learn given the necessary supports and encouragement is not commonly believed, but it should be. Wouldn’t it be great if autistic people’s ideas were included in designing curriculum and the tests that are meant to evaluate them. Isn’t that what you would want if you were like me?

    for effective assessments of students with communication support needs are:

    • The assessment tools used are appropriate for use by people with little or no speech. In particular, tests designed for people with speech should not be used, there are alternatives available (see below). Also, tests requiring certain motor skills (e.g. manipulating objects by hand) should not be used with people who do not have that motor functionality.
    • Assessors (e.g. teachers, psychologists, speech pathologists) have an understanding of complex communication needs, in particular, that a lack of expressive language does not necessarily mean that a student has no language ability, nor a low level of cognitive ability. Rather than low cognitive ability, it may be physical, language, or sensory difficulty that is contributing to the student’s level of performance.
    • Assessors are familiar with the student’s strengths, limitations, and their preferred communication mode. Teachers and principals have a responsibility to inform external assessors of any physical, language and/or sensory issues impacting a student’s communication that they are aware of, to ensure the assessor factors this into their interactions and assessments of the student.
    • Information from parents, external therapists, and any other relevant person should be obtained.
    • Assessors consult with family members regarding the student’s behaviours and day to day functioning, their preferred method of communication and any augmentative or alternative communication (AAC) used.
    • Assessors need to have up to date knowledge of relevant assessments and assessment guidelines.

    Where cognitive assessments are being undertaken with a student with communication support needs, be aware that standardised non-verbal cognitive assessment tools exist – these are tests that do not rely upon the student’s verbal ability – and should be used instead of the standard Weschler tests (WPPSI-IV and WISC-V). The appropriate tests include:

    • Wechsler Nonverbal Scale of Ability (WNV)
    • Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test Second Edition (UNIT-2)
    • Test of Nonverbal Intelligence Fourth Edition (TONI-4)
    • Comprehensive Test of Nonverbal Intelligence Second Edition (CTONI-2)
    • (Peabody and Ravens may also be used to provide indicative results.)

    These tests and above requirements are recognised by the Victorian Department of Education through their guidelines for professionals undertaking cognitive assessments of students with disabilities.

    In addition to formal assessments, information from the student’s family and former teachers can assist with identifying their strengths, which can be valuable for developing effective learning strategies and activities. For example, strengths of students with severe autism might include:

    • Strong visual-spatial proficiency
    • Sensitive and profound observational skills
    • Good memory
    • Creative/unique approaches and perspectives
  • Movement and sensory profiles

You are watching: Student profile – Students With No Speech. Info created by GBee English Center selection and synthesis along with other related topics.