ELSA-A Administration Manual

ELSA-A Administration Manual

Introduction: ELSA-A

The Eliciting Language Samples for Analysis – Adolescent version (ELSA-A) was developed at Boston University’s Center for Autism Research Excellence by Dr. Helen Tager-Flusberg and colleagues. This protocol was created to address the need for expressive language outcome measures in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). ELSA-A is intended for older children and adolescents ages 4-20 years who are minimally to low-verbal. The ELSA-A protocol contains 8 interactive activities used to collect and measure expressive language in older children and adolescents with a range of different developmental abilities. Utilizing engaging, age-appropriate activities that fall into the most commonly used language elicitation contexts: conversation, play, and narrative, ELSA-A provides multiple opportunities to produce language. The protocol is administered in a naturalistic and play-based setting that aims to maximize the participant’s opportunity to speak across a variety of fun and interactive activities. If interested in measuring expressive language in younger children, please review our ELSA-Toddler (ELSA-T) manual: https://sites.bu.edu/elsa/elsa-t/manual-2/.


ELSA-A should be administered within 15 to 25 minutes. The 8 activities can be completed in any order. The length of the activity will vary depending on the participant’s interest. A high fidelity ELSA-A administration requires administering all 8 activities and incorporating at least 5 open-ended questions across at least three different activities (please refer to p.12 for specific details about ELSA-A administration fidelity). ELSA-A can be administered by clinicians, researchers, caregivers, and teachers.

If necessary, behavioral support (caregiver, research staff, etc.)  can be present in the testing room. The administrator should instruct the behavioral support to not participate in the activities or interact with the participant. Only language exchanged between administrator and participant will be measured. If the participant interacts with the behavioral support, the participant should be directed back to the activity. By directing the participant’s attention back to the administrator we can optimize language elicitation measured.

ELSA-A Materials

The ELSA-A materials kit includes the materials listed below (pg. 3). The materials were chosen based on their ability to facilitate play, elicit verbal comments, and to engage participants of a wide age range. The materials chosen are developmentally appropriate, engage and interactive, gender neutral, and readily accessible.

Cultural Adaptability of ELSA-A

ELSA-A is designed to be a naturalistic play-based set of activities. Having been developed in the Northeastern United States, some of the activities may not be well-suited for participants in different regions and countries. We encourage administrators to adapt the activities in the ELSA-A to make them culturally appropriate. By reviewing the description and purpose of each activity, you can adapt the activity to augment its cultural appropriateness. We encourage administrators to share their adapted activities. This will enable us to provide these adapted manuals to other administrators via our website: https://sites.bu.edu/elsa/. The ELSA-A team can be contacted at elsacare@bu.edu .

Chapter 2

ELSA-A Protocol

8 Activities:

  1. Leaf Falling

Description: Leaf falling is an activity intended to elicit turn-taking between the administrator and the participant. This is a joint gross motor activity that gives the participant an opportunity to interact with the administrator by labeling various parts of a tree.


  • Paper Tree
  • Paper Leaves

Set up and Instructions:

  1. Before beginning administration, hang your paper tree with leaves and leaves on a wall.
  2. Hold the apples outward and in front of you.
  3. Let the apples go after counting down.
  4. Encourage the participant to play with the leaves and/or count along with you as you hang/remove leaves from the tree.

Suggested lines:

  • Look, this is a (pause 3 seconds)…tree!
  • Look, these are (pause 3 seconds)…leaves!
  • What can we do with this/these?
  • What happens to the leaves in the fall?
  • How many leaves fell from the tree?

For the full ELSA-A manual please click here: Eliciting Language Samples for Analysis-Adolescent (ELSA-A) Administration Manual