Special Populations

Special considerations may apply to specific populations of research participants, including children, elderly, people with sensory-impairment (e.g., hearing loss or low vision), users of hearing aid and cochlear implants, and patients experiencing cognitive and/or neurological challenges. Limited lteracy or limited proficiency in the primary languate of the test can also pose a challange. Although each individual or group of participants will experience their own pattern of challenges for in-lab and remote testing, some consideration can be given to common features of remote testing the might particularly affect special populations.

Remote testing imposes additional challenges compared to in-person testing. These additional demands include:

  • the ability to communicate using remote technologies, such as written instructions or information conveyed via video conferencing
  • practical knowledge required to set up the test environment, such turning off devices that generate background noise or asking family members not to interrupt testing
  • technical knowledge required to set up hardware or software
  • the ability to maintain attention without direct supervision

Special populations may require additional accommodations to ensure consistency and quality of data collected remotely. These accommodations might include:

video-chat for obtaining consent or assent

Video may be particularly beneficial for use with special populations, because it provides a rich set of interpersonal cues to ensure understanding and guard against coercion. Closed caption may also be appropriate for some subjects.

a social story or procedural video

While verbal instructions may be sufficient, some participants benefit from additional materials showing concrete examples of the task and what they will be asked to do.

a progress chart or visual schedule

Like a progress bar, these tools help the subject track their progress through a task or set of tasks.

an experimenter available when testing occurs

Having someone on call during data collection increases the chances that data will be collected following the protocol.

recruiting a parent or other helper to provide in-person support

A “wingman” can be trained to fulfill some of the same functions as an in-person experimenter.

blocking data collection into short segments

Providing frequent opportunities for feedback and breaks is common practice when working with special populations, but it could be particularly important for remote testing because the experimenter cannot monitor progress for signs of fatigue or flagging motivation.

including task training and probes

Training and probes may be even more critical for remote testing than in-person testing due to the reduced supervision and opportunities for the experimenter to notice confusion or flagging attention on the part of the subject.

user friendly response interface

Subjects with limited motor dexterity may benefit from the use of a touch screen or custom interface (e.g., oversized buttons likethisorthis).

multiple methods for delivering feedback and reinforcement

For special populations who may find prizes important to sustain motivation during the task, the experimenter may want to design various methods to effectively deliver incentives that meet compliance requirements.

interpretation of standardized tests

Administering standardized tests is usually part of the protocol with special populations, such as batteries of IQ, cognitive and language abilities. There are some implementations online (Gorilla Sample Tests). For most standardized batteries, normative data is collected through in-person interactions and may not be valid for remote implementation. The experimenter should be careful of interpretation of individual data if it will be transformed based on normative data.