What are the key differences between Emergent, Transitional and Competent communicators?

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How do you score the overall level of communicative competence if your participant has a varied profile?

ROCC level of communicative competence

Sometimes, it can be difficult to decide how to score your participant, when they have a varied profile graph. To help, we have taken a brief look at the key differences between Emergent, Transitional and Competent communicators.

An Emergent communicator can communicate expressively but tends to use body language, gestures or vocalisation that need to be interpreted by others rather than through symbols, signs or words to autonomously express what they are thinking. Sometimes emergent communicators may say or imitate messages with symbols, signs or words but it tends to be in response to prompts and cues rather than their an autonomous message.   The general point is that emergent communicators are communicating, but it often can’t be understood by less familiar people and needs to be interpreted by a familiar person to them.

With a Transitional communicator, you can start to expect autonomous word, sign or symbol use from the individual, rather than seeing what they are doing and providing appropriate models and opportunities for them to learn. At this level, individuals can be understood by people familiar to them most of the time. The overall range for transitional communicators is very broad, and so it’s important to look closely at the individual domains to determine the areas that are having the biggest impact on their communicative competence which will give you clues to next steps and key strategies to try. 

A person becomes a Competent communicator once they pass the test of being able to communicate with someone they have never met before. Ie, they can effectively communicate autonomously without prompts or assistance. They have developed a clear and consistent method of communicating, and any compensations required to inform their communication partner have been put in place. A competent communicator can use a range of tools that are best suited to the situation, partner or message. 

Please take a look at our blog posts for more detailed information on what to expect for each of these levels within the specific domains. 

The ROCC manual (available for download within your subscription) also describes each level of communicator in terms of emergent, transitional or competent overall.

When deciding on an overall level, it is important to stand back and review your participant subjectively as their individual domain scores can be variable. The ROCC process acknowledges subjectivity. The scores in ROCC are designed to give direction, rather than as a test result. We believe the decision on overall competency level should depend mostly on the scorer’s overall impression after scoring all 10 domains, and reviewing the profile graph. Remember that the ROCC is not designed to be a Roadmap, not a standardised assessment. It is important to understand  that the value in scoring the ROCC is more about the conversations we have to decide on a score as well as our reflections as we score,  than the score itself.  We have not been specific about how to score overall as the important part is the consideration of why a person is scored emergent, transitional or competent, and where to focus our next efforts, rather than the actual label.

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