ECI Administration Guidelines

Administration of the ECI generally involves conducting a 6-minute play session with the child involving a familiar adult as play partner with play centered around the Fisher-Price Barn or House. The session should take place in a relatively sheltered, but convenient setting with few distractions present. There are two options for administering the ECI:

  • Option 1: Two adults in the role of familiar play partner (usually the assessor) and a live recorder of the child’s communicative behaviors.
  • Option 2: One adult in the role of familiar play partner who additionally sets up and videotapes the session for the purpose of later recording the child’s communicative behaviors from the tape.

Using either option, the assessor times the session for exactly 6 minutes. A digital timer capable of recording minutes and seconds is required.

During the session the play partner follows the child’s lead during play and comments on the child’s actions and words to encourage the child’s communication. Assessors do not take the lead, rather they support with encouragement the child’s communicative behavior.

Download the assessment forms, checklists, and assessor training materials from the ECI Forms page.

 Play Toys/Materials Needed

The House and Farm are considered “standard” play toys for the ECI, having been used in its initial development. The normative data used for decision making represent children’s communication in these two contexts.

The toys, made by Fisher-Price can be purchased at local toy stores or ordered directly from Fisher-Price. Since development, however, Fisher-Price has made the Barn and House “sound” toys. For purposes of the ECI, remove all batteries and use the toys without sound because sounds tend to interfere with children’s opportunities to communicate.

General Set Up for an ECI Assessment

The familiar adult and child sit in an area that is comfortable where they can play. You may place an infant in a chair with a tray, at a table, or seated but supported on the floor. For best results, make sure the child’s feet, head, and neck are supported if needed for sustained play during the six-minute session.

Rotate between toys one session to the next to maintain the child’s interest. Refer to the prior session’s record to see which toy form was used previously and use the other form for the current session. Set up the toy to be used prior to bringing child into assessment so that the child can see the toys set out on entry to the assessment situation. Place either the Farm or House so that the toys are within reach of the child. The play partner should locate comfortably close by – also able to reach the toys, and to have excellent eye contact with the child.

Video Camera Set Up

If you decide to video record the session, several points apply. Set the camera up on a tripod and aim it appropriately using the view finder. Zoom the view so that the faces of the child and the play partner are in full view as is the play situation. Using the tripod and setting the zoom/focus insures a steady view later when recording. Check these settings for best positioning for later viewing and sound quality. Remember – camera view, sound quality, and loudness dramatically affect later recording accuracy.

If you have a camera operator, once underway the operator must stay still, interacting little if at all with you or the child. A camera person should be nonintrusive with respect to the assessment. The camera operator also may time the six-minute session for you.

If you are video taping on your own, set up the camera, start recording, join the child, and state “Start” to record a voice marker for the beginning of the timing and state “Stop” to mark the ending on the recorded tape.

If the child moves out of camera view for some reason, Say “Pause” to voice mark on the tape, then redirect the child back to location and/or update the camera view using its view finder as needed. Then state “Resume” so that later, when you are recording of the child’s communicative behavior from the tape, you can start, stop, and resume as needed to account for the interruption.

Becoming a Familiar Play Partner (Warm Up Sessions)

If you are unfamiliar to child, you will need to spend time with the child in their classroom/home settings wherever you plan to conduct ECI assessments. To break the ice, ask to join in the child’s play when a familiar caregiver is present and engaging the child. Once familiar (when the child will willing join you in play alone), let the child know that you are going to play with some toys as you start your first ECI with him or her.

Summary Steps for Adult Play Partners in the ECI

  1. The adult plays with the child in a manner that encourages interaction with the toy and the adult, but does not direct it.
  2. Follow the child’s communicative lead.
  3. Comment about what the child is doing, or describe what he/she is doing.
  4. It is okay to ask some questions, however, questioning should not be the primary manner of interacting with child.

Using Uncertified Parents or Caregivers as Play Partners

Sometimes it may be necessary for a child’s parent to act as the play partner during an assessment. This might be because the child is not comfortable playing with you (a developmentally appropriate response if you have not spent much time with the child), or you do not have an extra person who can code the assessment while you’re the play partner, and you do not have a video camera to record the session.

In order to ensure a valid assessment, parents as play partners need to understand and follow a few brief rules, just as you do when you are the play partner.

Before the parent acts as a play partner:

  1. Review the play partner checklist with them
  2. Model appropriate play partner interactions
  3. Have them practice with their child while you provide feedback (does not have to be a full 6-minutes, but at least 2-3 minutes)

Parent as Play Partner Checklist

  1. Parent and child are positioned so they can have eye contact
  2. Parent and child can see and reach toys
  3. Parent follows child’s lead (is not too directive)
  4. Parent comments about what the child is doing
  5. Parent interacts in a non-directive, friendly manner
  6. Parent uses questions sparingly
  7. At the end of the session, parent lets child know that the session is over
  8. At the end of the session, parent thanks the child for playing

 Play Partners with Children from Bilingual Families

  1. Play partner MUST be fluent in the child’s primary language
  2. Follow standard administration protocol
  3. Communicate with the child in his/her primary language

Note to coders: Code all words and multiple words, regardless of the language the child uses, including sign language. Therefore, the coder must be fluent in all languages that the child might communicate, including sign language. Refer to the ECI Scoring Definitions section for more about coding.

Ending ECI Assessments

When six minutes has elapsed, let the child know that it is time to stop playing and stop recording immediately. It is helpful to have an alternate activity to begin at the end of the ECI activity. Thank the child for playing, and make sure to clean all toys with disposable antibacterial towelettes in preparation for next use.

Accommodations for Children with Physical and/or Sensory Impairments

  1. Move toys closer to child
  2. Position child in manner that allows best access
  3. Orient child toward toys
  4. Introduce toys to the child allowing him/her to touch and manipulate
  5. Tell child where you have placed toys
  6. Include toys that are appropriate for the child, that are larger, more identifiable, that make common sounds and record these changes in the child’s file so that these same toys will be used in future assessments.