A Case Study on Strengthening the Link Between Psychometrics, Assessment, and Intervention in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

A Case Study on Strengthening the Link Between Psychometrics, Assessment, and Intervention in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Luis Anunciação (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and Anna Carolina Portugal (IBNeuro, Brazil)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1431-3.ch008

Abstract

A comprehensive childhood evaluation is a fundamental feature of rehabilitation. This process relies on the collection of quality data including that obtained from psychometric instruments, such as tests and scales, family interviews, and natural observations. Therefore, an evidence-based assessment counts on the interface of using psychometrically valid and reliable instruments, in addition to understanding data gathered from other sources of information. This chapter provides an overview of the key features of psychometric testing applied to childhood assessment. A case study is presented to link the psychometric instruments and its clinical utility within the assessment framework. To better accomplish this goal, this chapter is split into three sections: i. key features of psychometrics and its tools; ii. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); iii. a case study to link both topics.
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There is rapid growth in the number of psychologists worldwide as can be seen by social and academic markers. Psychology themes are popular in movies, on television, and in books. An estimated of more than one hundred thousand psychologists possess current licenses at the doctoral level in the United States (APA, 2014). In Brazil, more than three hundred thousand people have a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, which is the minimum required for becoming certified by the Federal Council (Anunciação, Mograbi, & Landeira-Fernandez, 2019).

Despite the increase in the number of psychologists, Psychology as a science is facing challenges and difficulty in its field, especially in the area of the applied measurement. Outside of academia, the lack of knowledge even on the existence of psychological standardized measures prevents the general public from receiving benefits from psychological science in general, and cognitive neuroscience in particular (Castelnuovo, 2017). Inside the academic field, a long history of loyal skeptics of quantitative psychology still diminish the importance of psychometrics, thereby weakening (or just dissolving) the link between all subfields within psychology, including those who link the work such as clinicians, therapists, and neuropsychologists (Osborne, 2010).

With special regard to professionals working as clinicians, even the ones engaged with neuropsychological assessment, there is a persistent myth which states that work from clinical professionals (mainly in the field of Clinical and Health Psychology) and psychometricians are not interchangeable. Within this perspective, psychometricians are only concerned with the statistical and mathematical modeling of the wide range of psychological phenomena with little to no relationship to pragmatic and clinical decisions. On the other hand, the heavy interest of clinical practitioners relies on the diagnosis and treatment evaluation of individual patients.

This vision also supports that psychometricians would be responsible for developing standardized measures and tools, and in turn neuropsychologists and other clinicians would be responsible for applying these instruments in clinical practice and using the obtained data to support their decisions. However, as the results of different methods within neuropsychological assessment typically differ, and both works seem to be very different to reconcile, with parts arguing that clinical work is sovereign and is too often stated for those from whom this distinction is adequate. So much so that the historical approach brings the term “clinimetrics” in contrast to “psychometrics” (Streiner, 2003).

In fact, this distinction, and therefore this perspective, is widely incorrect. It agrees with a simplistic all or nothing approach to science; and it assumes that if one procedure (i.e. a specific psychological test) gives a different conclusion than another procedure (i.e. a clinical observation), the choice of the most adequate conclusion will throw away the other procedure as if it were unnecessary. Finally, this division simply ignores that all measures (including the psychological measure) have some random error and introduces a mix between a true score in addition to an error.

Science is about integrating methods. Actually, what is really recommended is that clinical professionals must recognize all procedures as being jointly related, use the available procedures which can bring important information to deal with their aims, and weigh every result congruently to its capacity of access and to extract information on the phenomena of interest. When professionals integrate all the information, the accuracy of its evaluation increases and all the procedures which emerge after the evaluation are more justifiable (Lezak, Howieson, Bigler, & Tranel, 2012).

With that being said, a childhood evaluation must be conducted by implementing a comprehensive and integrative approach. This process relies on collecting quality data, including those obtained from psychometric instruments, such as tests and scales, family interviews, natural observations and consultations with the multidisciplinary team. Therefore, an evidence-based assessment counts on the interface of using psychometrically valid and reliable instruments, in addition to understanding data gathered from other information sources.

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