Content Editor


Jul 15
To Test or Not to Test
by Amy Collins, OTR, MOT
Manager, School-Based Therapy Services, Harris County Dept. of Education


A few days ago, I overheard a discussion between two school-based occupational therapists about when to use standardized assessment tools as part of the evaluation process. One therapist believed they were required, while the other believed they should be used at the therapist’s discretion.  

Standardized assessments are not mandated by law as part of an evaluation for related services. IDEA specifies that evaluations include many sources of information, including observation, interview, and the student’s records. At times, standardized assessment tools can help you get a comprehensive picture of the student or provide a means of benchmarking progress.
Standardized tools that focus on measuring deviation from normal are impairment-based and often provide data already in the student record. They lack the ability to provide information about how the student performs on activities he or she needs to be able to do at school.
Participation-based tools evaluate the student’s ability to participate in activities. They are consistent with disability research and policy which emphasize that disability is a function of the fit between a person, their environment, and the activities/tasks they need to perform. Examples are the Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM), the School Function Assessment (SFA), the Sensory Profiles, and the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM). Since the purpose of OT and PT in the schools is to support a student’s participation in their educational program, participation-based tools may better assist you to gather the needed data.
Take a closer look at standardized assessment tools and ask yourself whether the information they yield will help you determine how to best support the student’s participation at school.  
Coster, W.J. (1998). Occupation-centered assessment of children. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 52, 337-344.