Assessment of the Student with Communication and Movement Difficulties



The assumption that students with disabilities are developmentally delayed is a misnomer. The P scales have been produced on the basis of this premise and are therefore woefully inadequate tools for assessment or for curriculum planning. I often find myself in classrooms where students who are cognitively capable of learning to read and to spell are being held back by the fact that they have physical disability and communication problems. This leads to them having targets to improve physical skills that they may never achieve and are inappropriate to begin with. An example is a fifteen year old girl with cerebral palsy who I recently assessed. It was plain that she was reading words which she demonstrated by eye pointing correctly. However, the school had not yet provided her with a literacy programme because she had not achieved the target of "pulling a push toy"! Not only was this target inappropriate because of the age of the student, it was also one she will never achieve because of her disability. She was being set up to fail.




It does not help to try to break P Scales down into ever smaller incremental steps. For some students the steps themselves are not applicable.


 The Pupil Progress Plan aims to enable schools to differentiate the P Scales horizontally rather than incrementally. This way you can decide which issues are purely physical or to do with communication and address these as separate issues to learning goals which are the cognitive and curriculum issues. It also allows for the school to look at their own needs to ensure that access is available to the student and that their progress is not being hampered by a lack of resource rather than a perceived deficit.




It is designed to follow the format of an IEP. I often fill one of these out for a student as a way of planning for their annual review. We cover this and other issues around assessment on Day 3 of our "Communication for All" course.





Pupil Progress Plan 




Sensory and/or Physical















This section is about any physical or sensory impairments the pupil might which affects their access to the curriculum such as: physical disability, fine motor control issues, sensory issues such as tactile, vision, auditory, proprioception, olfactory etc.

This section deals with pupil’s physical access the curriculum. It is about how their physical environment and issues within that environment that are causing problems.

This section looks at the communicative needs of the pupil. It is about how easy it is for the pupil to get their message across and what might be barring them from doing that. It might be a physical/sensory or access issue, they may have word finding problems, or there might be social and/or emotional reasons.

This is about the thinking processes of the pupil. Not always easy to ascertain, especially if the pupil has communication impairment. For example; short term memory, generalising a rule, ability to categorise, seeing relevance, making connections, following and giving instructions, making comparisons.

This is deliberately considered last as curriculum problems often stem from underlying issues which need addressing first. Here we note down specific skills within subjects that the pupil needs help with.





Sensory and/or Physical



















Physical and sensory issues can be long term or permanent so the goal might involve finding ways round a problem rather than attempting to remove it.


There may be exercise programmes advised by a therapist that need to be fitted into the school day. The goal will be dependent on the aim of the programme which should be made clear to teachers.


There may be remedial support that can be provided by making changes to the environment. The goal will be the expected result from changes made.

The goal might be the acquisition of specific equipment or developing the use of such.


It could be changes in the environment that will make learning easier for the pupil such as removing clutter or use of specific colours, font sizes etc.

Acquisition of equipment might be relevant here. There might be speech and language programmes for which the goal will depends on advice from the SALT (Speech and language therapist).


Other communication targets might be around emotional and/or behavioural issues with input from the educational psychologist.

As thinking skills programmes are beginning to find their way into the school curriculum there might be a programme available locally. Otherwise the target will be related to specific needs identified. There is a need to be realistic here as cognitive needs respond to long term interventions rather than quick fixes.

Specific, subject related goals that you think the pupil can achieve provided they receive the correct input. This might well be input from across the other four areas.






Sensory and/or Physical





















This section describes any physical or sensory programme in more detail including duration and frequency.


It might describe changes that need making to the environment.

This might describe the kind of adaptations that need making to materials to make them accessible. For example, enlarging worksheets to make tracking easier, Typing rather than hand writing, angling keyboards for easier access.

This section might include the way in which lessons are delivered and structured e.g. for children with short concentration spans.

Could include any of the following (and more):


Behaviour supports.

Communication support methods.

Details of any language programmes with duration and frequency and how it fits in with curriculum.

Any thinking skills training to be followed.


This might be a specific programme or it might reflect specific areas for development such as sequencing, multi-sensory method for pupils with SpLD etc.

This will be reference to the other four areas. For example structure of day, specific curriculum areas where strategies should apply etc.





Sensory and/or Physical








This includes staff, equipment etc.


Named staff who work with the pupil on a day to day basis would also be added to the lists.







For a physically disabled pupil it might include physiotherapist to deliver programme, Teaching Assistant to learn and help pupil with practice. There may be a sensory therapist.














All professionals involved with the pupil need to be aware of resources needed for access. The Occupational Therapist might be involved.


This might be any of the following:


photocopying, slanted boards, communication aids and how they will be used, computer access, special pens, different coloured paper, positioning in the classroom to see the board, resources for any special presentation of lessons etc.

For students with speech and/or language difficulty a SALT should be involved.


There may be specialist teachers for communication involved.


Behaviour therapists and educational psychologists could be involved.


Any equipment to aid communication and how it will be used.



This is often handled by the teacher but thinking skills specialists are becoming more common place and might be involved. An Educational Psychologist might be involved.


Teachers and Teaching assistants might have need for specific workbooks or other resources to aid cognitive development.


There might be cross over with curriculum areas that are appropriate.

This section specifies needs within particular





Copyright: Marion Stanton

May be freely used as long as the copyright is acknowledged in the document.