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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Using the computer during assessment with students who are physically handicapped and nonspeaking : Is it feasible? Bentley, Constance Diane


Traditionally, assessment has been a difficult procedure among children with physical handicaps who are nonspeaking due to their limited response capacities. More accurate methods of assessment are needed. The use of computers in the assessment of children with physical and nonspeaking handicaps has considerable promise. This pilot study investigated the use of the computer as a viable tool during assessment of children with physical handicaps who are nonspeaking. This study was exploratory. Methodological procedures changed as new discoveries were made. The study explored the possible advantages of using a Macintosh LC computer with adaptive peripherals (the Unicorn expanded keyboard and digitized speech) to assess the abilities of students with physical and speech impairments as measured by performance in an assessment protocol. It attempted to examine memory abilities. Children were given a series of photographs and/or letters to memorize under the following conditions: a) standard stimulus exposure and response times (five and 20 seconds respectively). b) prolonged stimulus exposure and response times (20 and 60 seconds respectively). c) visual feedback only conditions. d) visual and auditory feedback conditions. The study addressed the following research questions: 1) Does lengthening the stimulus exposure and response times influence students' performance in an assessment protocol? 2) Does feedback; (visual and auditory combined or visual feedback only) influence students' performance on an assessment protocol? Observations and measures were made of 1) the number of questions answered, 2) number of items remembered in sequence, 3) number of items remembered in a random order, and 4) response times. General conclusions: The study found that computer based assessment has potential to help students demonstrate their potential because of its flexibility. The computer provides auditory/visual presentations enhancing students' perceptual access and response fluency and involving students actively. Student responses are more easily interpreted by the examiner as a result of auditory feedback. The assessor's powers are augmented because the computer presents questions and scores and tabulates results, thereby freeing the examiner to concentrate on and attend to the student. However, there are cautions to be observed when using the computer during assessment of these children. The usefulness of the computer is limited by its lack of ability to respond quickly and make adjustments to the assessment situation as perceived necessary by the assessor. The assessor must still be responsible for recognizing students' individuality and the human subtleties that arise during assessment which have not been anticipated in software programs. The benefits of the computer are not exploited unless an examiner is present to make sensitive adjustments to the assessment environment in order to meet the needs of students. The examiner must ensure that the computer's advantages do not hamper the powers of the "human" during assessment. The assessor must see the computer's role as one of augmentation. Assessment must take place over time and students must be familiar with the task and keyboard overlay before embarking on assessment. The study highlighted the heterogeneity and variability of children with severe disabilities. Software needs to be developed that is flexible enough to meet the needs of this population.

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