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Last Updated on April 28, 2021 by Steph Reed
the garden school ComFor training

From left to right: Myself – Steph Reed, Jarymke Malijaars (Ku Leuven), Pat Quigley (The Garden Head of School) and Beth Junor (Specialist ASD Speech and Language Therapist).

I was very grateful to attend the ComFor training held at The Garden School in January. The ComFor assessment is a tool used to determine what would be the most appropriate form of augmentative communication for an individual with autism and little or no verbal language.

The ComFor Assessment

The assessment is a very methodical range of sorting activities which aim to identify what forms of supports an individual can make sense of in order to put in place the most appropriate augmentative communication intervention. These supports include objects, pictures, line drawings, pictograms, photos and written language symbols. The assessment uses different levels of sense making to understand where an individual may be functioning. These levels of sense making are:

  • Sensation: How babies experience the world and learn to react to their environment (i.e cry for attention)
  • Presentation: The individual begins to learn the function of communication and can communicate actively in the present context (i.e looking at, pointing to and babbling towards a cup)
  • Representation: When speech is used and a word represents an object (i.e. the word “drink” is used to ask for a drink). If an individual does not speak, but they learn that a picture, symbol or object refers to an action (i.e. to drink) then they have reached the level of representation
  • Metarepresentation: When language is used and understood beyond the literal meaning (i.e. a joke or sarcasm)
  • The ComFor assessment aims to ascertain which level of sense making an individual is operating at and therefore, which type of augmentative communication approach would be most suitable. Below are photo examples of different forms of augmentative communication implemented after the ComFor Assessment at the appropriate level based on the individuals level of sense making (with photos taken from Met Andere Woorden – ‘In Other Words’)

    Objects of Reference

    Objects related to the activity are used to communicate what is coming next (i.e. bib for lunch time)

    object of reference asd teacher

    Assembling Objects

    The child below is able to take the object and place it into the awaiting object (i.e. cup in cup holder) in order to have a drink

    assembling objects asd teacher
    assembling objects asd teacher

    Assembling Pictograms

    The pictogram will slot into the correct place (i.e. headphones where the headphones are used)

    assembling pictogram

    Matching Pictograms

    The child below is able to recognise the pictogram and then transition to and take part in the activity that is displayed in the pictogram (i.e lunch time):

    matching pictogram

    The ComFor assessment is an extremely invaluable tool to decide on the most appropriate form of augmentative communication in order to ensure the individual understands and is able to communicate to their full potential. Further information on the ComFor assessment tool can be found at the offical ComFor website here as well as in the journal article ‘Making Sense in a Fragmentary World’ (Neons & Van Berckelaer-Onnes, 2004, Sage Publications and the National Autistic Society).

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    Steph Reed

    Hi I’m Steph Reed, an Autism Specialist Teacher and Consultant. I teach schools, service and families practical ways to meet the needs of autistic children, to maximise their outcomes.

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