Getting started with telehealth for early intervention: Learning modules

What is a Structured Descriptive Assessment

One type of observational assessment that can be helpful when beginning telehealth intervention are Structured Descriptive Assessment (Anderson & Long, 2002).

These assessments help providers learn: 1) situations where your child might be motivated to communicate, 2) how your child is communicating during common daily routines, 3) if your child engages in joint attention during these routines, and 4) if your child engages in any interfering behavior.

In a Structured Descriptive Assessment, your provider will ask you about different common routines in your child’s day. These routines often include things like mealtime, different play scenarios, and self-care routines (e.g., brushing teeth).

Once your provider has determined several routines to observe, they will ask you to do these different routines with your child in short bursts of time (5 or 10 minutes). While you do the routines, your provider will observe how your child communicates during these times. They will pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication. 


Anderson, C. M., & Long, E. S. (2002). Use of a structured descriptive assessment methodology to identify variables affecting problem behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 35, 137-154.

Dimian, A. F., Elmquist, M., Reichle, J., & Simacek, J. (2018). Teaching communicative responses with a speech-generating device via telehealth coaching. Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders2, 86-99.

Simacek, J., Dimian, A. F., & McComas, J. J. (2017). Communication intervention for young children with severe neurodevelopmental disabilities via telehealth. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47, 744-767.