The assessment procedure requires a total of 30 min and is set up as follows. The caregiver is asked to interact with the child under three conditions: free play, teaching, and story reading. Beginning with free play also provides an opportunity for warm-up and relaxation for the dyads. For this condition, a standard set of toys, relevant to the child's background, is provided. The caregiver is asked to "play with your child as normally as you can with these toys." These should be about five or six toys that allow for a variety of interactions, such as play dough, a puzzle, a construction toy, crayons and paper, and some dolls. The teaching condition involves a set of Legos, and the caregiver is told to "teach your child to build a house with these Legos." For the reading condition, a small selection of books can be offered, and the caregiver is asked to "read one of these books with your child for a few minutes." Each condition requires 10 min, after which time the materials are removed and those for the next condition are introduced. The assessor completes a fresh MLERS protocol for each condition, scoring each as independently as possible. This allows not only for multiple samples of behavior, but for some judgment regarding the relationship of the nature of the task to the behaviors observed.
While interactions between primary caregivers and the child are the most likely to be included in an assessment, it is also possible to include the child's interactions with other family members, and even to combine interactions such as mother and father or mother and grandmother with the child for additional insight into the family's dynamics (this will obviously elicit interactions well beyond those involved in mediation).
During the course of the interaction, whether videotaped or not, the assessor should record as much description as possible about the nature of the interactions. With the 12 components in mind, it is recommended that the assessor make a running record on the back of the scoring sheet, adding cues for which component the behavior represents. How these components appeared in the mediator's behavior is very important to note, in addition to the child's responsiveness. There is a separate scale for recording child responsiveness to mediation, which is included in Chapter 5. When used for diagnostic purposes, the scale is useful primarily as a description of the interaction, not in the scores it yields. This is not a standardized, normed instrument, and we do not have the information to indicate the extent to which any specific behavior is "good" or "bad." Interpretation reflects our knowledge base regarding child development, particularly regarding what is appropriate for the age and nature of the child's disabilities. The scores allow us to develop a profile of the caregiver's mediational repertory and to use this profile to compare the caregiver's development across time (in response to intervention), as well as to select targets for intervention.
Before engaging in this assessment procedure, it is very important for assessors to be trained to understand the nature of each component and to develop scoring reliability. Neither of these is very difficult, but they do require investment of at least 6 to 8 hours of formal training. Understanding of the components can be gained from careful reading of the protocol, from reviewing the material in Lidz (1991b), and from any of Feuerstein's publications on his dynamic assessment procedure (e.g., Feuerstein et al., 1979). To promote reliability, videotapes should be made of several caregiver-child interactions (these could involve colleagues), with some used for initial training and others for reliability testing.
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