Support Intensity Scale (SIS®) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Maryland Providers and Families

Below are some FAQs that may help your agency support SIS® completion for the people you serve.

What is the SIS®?

The SIS® is a tool designed to measure the relative intensity of support that each person with intellectual and developmental disabilities (e.g., cognitive/intellectual disabilities, autism and cerebral palsy) needs to fully participate in community life. The SIS® is intended to be used in conjunction with the person-centered planning processes to assist teams in developing individualized support plans that are responsive to the needs and choices of people with disabilities. The SIS® is a standardized and norm-referenced assessment tool that is used statewide for determining support levels for people in Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Medicaid Waiver programs.

The SIS® measures the person’s support needs in personal, work-related, and social activities in order to identify and describe the types and intensity of the supports an individual requires. The SIS® was designed to be part of person-centered planning processes that help all people identify their unique preferences, skills and life goals.

The supports approach also recognizes that people’s needs change over time and their supports must change as well. They must be developed and delivered in age-appropriate settings with the understanding that, regardless of intellectual abilities or limitations, people with disabilities should have the opportunity engage in activities and life experiences just like any other person.

Who wrote the SIS®?

The SIS®, published in 2004, was developed over a five-year period by a team of experts from the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD). In 2015, AAIDD refreshed the SIS® to the SIS-A (Supports Intensity Scale- Adult Version) to distinguish it from the SIS-C (Children’s Version). SIS-A measures the exact domains and items as the classic SIS®. Since 1876, the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities has been providing leadership in the field of developmental disabilities.

Why will the SIS® be used in Maryland?

The SIS® was selected by a work group that included the Maryland Association of Community Services (MACS), MACS provider members, representatives from the DDA, and self-advocates. Other tools discussed included the ICAP. After evaluating a variety of assessment tools, the State of Maryland chose the SIS® to gather consistent information about people's support needs. Information from the SIS®, along with other factors will be used to determine support levels, as part of the person-centered planning process.

The SIS® and the state agreed for numerous reasons, including:

  • The SIS® is principally designed to directly feed into and support the development of person-centered plans by measuring the frequency, type, and intensity of support that individuals need in various dimensions of everyday functioning and living.
  • The SIS® includes a focus on employment-related supports.
  • The SIS® provides an evaluation of significant medical and behavioral conditions.
  • The SIS® focuses on an person's current needs. Although historical usage is important information, the SIS® identifies needs for supports that may not have been used in the past.
  • The SIS® has been tested nationwide and yields reliable and valid information about people’s support needs and, thereby, is a foundation for linking funding to such needs.
  • Agencies can use the results to help plan for strategic planning, staffing, staff training, budgeting and evaluation.
  • The state can use the results for systems planning and program evaluation.

Who is administering the SIS® and how were they trained?

AAIDD SIS® Trainers have trained SIS® interviewers working with Telligen. Everyone who serves as a SIS® interviewer must be trained and then pass a reliability and qualification review before they are allowed to conduct interviews on their own. This is referred to as the Interviewer Reliability and Qualification Review (IRQR) and is administered on an annual basis by either an AAIDD SIS® Trainer or an AAIDD-recognized SIS® Trainer.

Who should be at the SIS® interview?

The individual receiving services should be present and can act as their own respondent or self-reporter. The certified SIS® interviewer will make sure that two or more appropriate respondents are included in the SIS® interview. An appropriate respondent is someone who knows the individual well and has had recent and frequent contact with them. According to AAIDD, a respondent must have known the person for at least three months (a full year is recommended) and have had recent opportunities to observe the person in one or more environments for substantial periods of time (at least several hours per setting). Two or three people who know the individual well and who the individual wants to participate should be present. It is not appropriate to have a large number of people present during a SIS® interview. The individual, the interviewer and a few respondents are essential. For the assessment to be valid, it is required that at least two of the primary respondents must be present throughout the full SIS® interview.

How long does a SIS® interview take?

The average amount of time for an interview is approximately two to two and a half hours. As this is a standardized assessment, there is a very specific way that the questions are to be asked, which includes the expanded item definitions of each question. In order to maintain the validity of the assessment, interviewers must ask all the questions on the assessment, even if the answer appears to be obvious. Each item in the assessment must be described before it is rated and an opportunity for discussion is given during the assessment. It is perfectly okay to ask for a break if an individual or their family member needs one.

Does everyone in services need a SIS® Assessment?

Everyone eligible for DDA services must have this assessment, because information from the SIS® will be used, in addition to other factors, in establishing staffing support as part of a person-centered planning process.

Can I get a copy of my SIS® Interview Form?

Yes. Let the interviewer or your Coordinator of Community Services (CCS) know if you want a copy. The interviewer or your CCS can send you one after the results are scored and graphed.

When an individual uses assistive technology, is the SIS® administered with the assistive technology in place?

Yes. This applies only to assistive technology that the person is already using. For example, if a person has an assistive device (communication device, wheelchair, hearing aid, etc.) they would be scored with the device in place.

What if I have a concern or complaint about the SIS® Interview process?

The individual, and/or his/her guardian/authorized representatives who attended the interview may request a DDA review of whether DDA’s standard operating procedures for administration of the SIS® were followed. A SIS® score alone is not appealable, because professional training is required to assign an accurate rating. However, if there are concerns related to the SIS®, you may submit your concerns following the process below. The CCS will provide a copy of the SIS® complaint process to the individual, guardian, authorized representative, and family member, as appropriate.

Can current SIS® interviewers and trainers use SIS-A without further training?

All SIS interviewers and trainers will maintain their recognition by AAIDD for the timeframe determined at their last Interviewer Reliability Qualification Review (IRQR) conducted by AAIDD Trainers or an AAIDD recognized SIS trainer. SIS-A is an enhancement to the original SIS; therefore, AAIDD recognized interviewers and trainers may use SIS-A within that same recognition.

Where can I get more information about the SIS® and its use in Maryland?

For more information on the SIS®, please visit www.aaidd.org.