SCERTS® Model Assesment
For the cases when more specialist input is required, an innovative educational SCERTS® model will provide specific guidelines for helping a child become a confident and competent social communicator. It will also aid in preventing problem behaviours that interfere with learning and the development of social relationships.
The name “SCERTS” refers to the focus on:
“SC” – Social Communication – the development of emotional expression, functional, spontaneous communication and trusting and secure relationships with adults and peers;
“ER” – Emotional Regulation – the development of the child’s ability to keep a well-regulated emotional state to cope with everyday life, and to be most available for interacting and greater learning;
“TS” – Transactional Support –implementation of supports to help carers and teachers respond to the child’s needs and interests, adapt the environment, and offer tools to enhance learning (e.g. sensory supports, written schedules and picture communication).
The model will allow going through the comprehensive assessment of the social and emotional understanding as well as emotional regulation strategies the child has developed already, visually present the results and create a detailed plan for the further progress.
Following SCERTS assessment and measurements, practitioners working with the child can start teaching from where a child is at – not where they should be age-wise or presuming that they can’t do anything at all.
Social Communication – Joint Attention. This developmental domain refers to a child’s ability to communicate with a variety of people, for a variety of functions, and in a variety of social contexts. This requires the ability to share attention with others, share emotion with others, and share experiences by considering the listener’s perspective when initiating, taking turns in conversation, selecting topics, and repairing communicative breakdowns. In the domain of Joint Attention, the child’s ability to initiate a range of communicative bids for the functions of requesting desired objects and activities, requesting a break, and protesting undesired activities will be evaluated. The child’s ability to initiate and maintain topics of conversation related to a partner’s interest, comment on both immediate and past events, provide requested information about events, regulate social turns across partners and activities, ability to consistently monitor the attentional focus of a social partner, secure attention prior to communicating will be carefully analysed.
Through Social Communication – Symbol Use Assessment, nonverbal and verbal communication that a child understands and uses to communicate and share experiences with others will be looked into. This refers to a child’s ability to understand and use language, gestures, nonverbal social cues and the rules of conversation. In the domain of Symbol Use, the child’s ability to learn through imitation, use behaviors modeled by partners to guide social behavior, and his participation in dramatic play and recreation activities with peers to include rule-based group recreation; also the child’s ability to collaborate and negotiate with his peers in problem-solving and understanding and using generative language to express meanings will be evaluated.
As part of the Mutual Regulation Assessment, child’s ability to express a range of emotions, gradations of emotion, respond to assistance offered by social partners, and request assistance from others in order to remain well regulated, organised, and actively engaged in social settings will be analysed in detail. In the domain of Mutual Regulation, we’ll be looking at the child’s ability to request a partners’ assistance to regulate emotional state, using facial expressions and body language to seek comfort or interaction or his ability to share his intentions for the purposes of requesting desired objects, activities, and even assistance, his ability to use emotion words to express his emotions and seek assistance, as well as to respond to information or strategies offered by partners to self-regulate emotional arousal.
Self- Regulation Developmental Domain refers to a child’s ability to use increasingly mature strategies for coping during solitary activities, social activities, transitions, and emotionally distressful situations. This refers to early sensory-motor coping strategies, language strategies such as talking through the steps of a task, and planning and self-monitoring during activities. In the domain of Self-Regulation, we will be looking for instance whether the child will demonstrate a relative strength in his use of behaviours or sensory-motor actions to regulate his arousal level in both solitary and social activities, his ability to use behaviours modelled by partners to regulate his arousal level as well as his ability to use language strategies to talk himself through the multi-step tasks.
Attending to the social agenda would be a challenging task for an autistic child, having a system however in place that allows identifying an imbalance in his social and emotion-cognition, in his ability to regulate emotional response will let him/her perform in social environments more effectively.
Zac’s case study
My friendly 9-year-old verbal and able autistic student Zac (name changed) surprised me with striking visual memory and a passion for superheroes. However, as he showed incredible opportunities of an autistic mind, simultaneously I could see him struggling while trying to identify emotions.
Previously, teaching emotion recognition through labelling relevant pictures was a common way. Yet, this “picture recognition” method was later abandoned as it didn’t help to gain true emotion understanding. I felt particularly challenged while introducing complex emotions which do not necessarily have corresponding emotional expressions or even have the possibility of being expressed with contradicting non-verbal cues such as smiling while feeling hurt.
Employing SCERTS assessment allowed me to determine that Zac had just enough understanding of the early emotion words-both on the self and others- for me to commence working on his advanced emotion words. As advanced emotion words have several meanings, we have focused on one aspect of the feeling. For instance, for “embarrassed,” I have considered other children laughing at the way you look.
The outcome of the intervention (where I have applied a variety or methods to elicit an understanding of embarrassment) for Zac was gaining the ability to generalise his learning of communicating one of the aspects of the internal emotional state of embarrassment across several emotion-evoking situations, both on the self and others in different settings.
Personally perceiving play as a fundamental need that allows a child to develop his sense of identity and make friends, build an understanding of the world and feel included in it, I felt privileged to see Zac’s growing ability to sustain engagement through play, his two-way and multiple-way social interactions, observing his social engagement during the interventions alongside independent turn-taking, sharing and following other social expectations.
My most enjoyable part yet was teaching Zac the ways to express empathy to other children who joined us during the sessions. During my last days in England, usually challenged in his emotional expression Zac, ran up to give me a big hug. It was an emotional moment showing that teaching autistic children can be a positive and rewarding experience when it’s based on the holistic approach where the wellbeing of an autistic child with his “enthusiasms”, strengths and needs is brought into focus.