Purpose: Accurate description of an individual's communication status is critical in both research and practice. Describing the communication status of individuals with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities is difficult because these individuals often communicate with presymbolic means that may not be readily recognized. Our goal was to design a communication scale and summary score for interpretation that could be applied across populations of children and adults with limited (often presymbolic) communication forms.
Method: The Communication Complexity Scale (CCS) was developed by a team of researchers and tested with 178 participants with varying levels of presymbolic and early symbolic communication skills. Correlations between standardized and informant measures were completed, and expert opinions were obtained regarding the CCS.
Results: CCS scores were within expected ranges for the populations studied, and interrater reliability was high. Comparison across other measures indicated significant correlations with standardized tests of language. Scores on informant report measures tended to place children at higher levels of communication. Expert opinions generally favored the development of the CCS.
Conclusions: The scale appears to be useful for describing a given individual's level of presymbolic or early symbolic communication. Further research is needed to determine whether it is sensitive to developmental growth in communication.