Education is More than Academics and it All Starts with Assessments
Some students on the autism spectrum have an uneven profile of skills, often showing up in adaptive skills. Sometimes a student’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) lacks adaptive goals simply for the reason that they have not been assessed. Here you will find a variety of assessments that examine your child’s adaptive skills.
It will be important for you to work with your school team in discussing which assessments are most appropriate for your child.
It All Starts With Assessments
Adaptive and Life Skills Assessments
The Assessment of Basic Language & Learning Skills (ABLLS)
Developed by Dr. Partington, the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills – Revised (The ABLLS-R®), is an assessment tool, curriculum guide, and skills-tracking system used to help guide the instruction of language and critical learner skills for children with autism or other developmental disabilities. This practical and parent-friendly tool facilitates the identification of skills needed by the child to effectively communicate and learn from everyday experiences.
The ABLLS-R® provides a comprehensive review of 544 skills from 25 skill areas including language, social interaction, self-help, academic and motor skills that most typically developing children acquire prior to entering kindergarten. The task items within each skill area are arranged from simpler to more complex tasks.
Expressive language skills are assessed based upon the behavioral analysis of language as presented by Dr. B.F. Skinner in his book, Verbal Behavior (1957). The assessment results allow parents and professionals to pinpoint obstacles that have been preventing a child from acquiring new skills and to develop a comprehensive language-based curriculum.
The 2006 revised version of the ABLLS incorporates many new task items and provides a more specific sequence in the developmental order of items within the various skill areas. Significant changes were made in the revised version of the vocal imitation section with input from Denise Senick-Pirri, SLP-CCC. Additional improvements were made to incorporate items associated with social interaction skills, motor imitation and other joint attention skills, and to ensure the fluent sue of established skills.
The Vineland Adaptive Rating Scales
The Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, Second Edition (Vineland-II) measures the personal and social skills of individuals from birth through adulthood. Because adaptive behavior refers to an individual’s typical performance of the day-to-day activities required for personal and social sufficiency, these scales assess what a person actually does, rather than what he or she is able to do.
The Vineland-II assesses adaptive behavior in four domains:
Communication (Receptive, Expressive, Written)
Daily Living Skills (Personal, Domestic, Community)
Socialization (Interpersonal, Play/Leisure, Coping)
Motor Skills (Fine and Gross Motor)
It additionally assesses maladaptive behavior.
In order to determine the level of an individual’s adaptive behavior, someone who is familiar with that individual, such as a parent or caregiver, is asked to describe his activities. Those activities are then compared to those of other people the same age to determine which areas are average, above average, or in need of special help.
Learning about an individual’s adaptive behavior helps us to gain a total picture of that individual. When adaptive behavior information is combined with information about an individual’s intelligence, school achievement, and physical health, plans can be made to address any special needs that person may have at home or in school.
There is a teacher version and a parent version. The parent questionnaire can be processed either as an interview or a parent survey. The parent version will address a wider variety of adaptive behaviors than the teacher version, which only addresses behaviors observed in the classroom.
Information about the Vineland assessment is provided by AGS Publishing. For a sample letter requesting a school to administer the Vineland test, see this link:
Adaptive Behavior Assessment System (ABAS)
Adaptive Behavior Assessment System Third Edition (ABAS-3) gives a complete picture of adaptive skills across the lifespan. It is particularly useful for evaluating those with developmental delays, autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, learning disabilities, neuropsychological disorders, and sensory or physical impairments.
The Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS)
The Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS) is a criterion-referenced skills assessment tool, tracking system, and curriculum guide. The AFLS is used for teaching children, adolescents, and adults with developmental disabilities the essential skills they need in order to achieve the most independent outcomes. The AFLS is the most versatile assessment system available and offers learners a pathway to independence. It is comprised of a Guide and 6 individual scoring protocols to cover Basic Skills, Home Skills, Community Participation Skills, School Skills, Vocational Skills and Independent Living Skills.
While the Protocols are available for isolated purchase, we strongly recommend getting the AFLS Guide to use as a teaching companion that includes suggestions for teachers, task analyses, along with additional features of the AFLS system. For teachers seeking a better way to identify goals and objectives while keying in on the learner’s individual needs, the AFLS Guide is a valuable resource.
The Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program
The VB-MAPP is a criterion-referenced assessment tool, curriculum guide, and skill tracking system that is designed for children with autism, and other individuals who demonstrate language delays. The VB-MAPP is based on B.F. Skinner’s (1957) analysis of verbal behavior, established developmental milestones, and research from the field of behavior analysis.
There are five components of the VB-MAPP, and collectively they provide a baseline level of performance, a direction for intervention, a system for tracking skill acquisition, a tool for outcome measures and other language research projects, and a framework for curriculum planning. Each of the skills in the VB-MAPP is not only measurable and developmentally balanced, but they are balanced across the verbal operants and other related skills. For example, many aspects of an intraverbal repertoire are based on an existing tact and listener repertoire. The VB-MAPP balances the curriculum in an attempt to avoid the common trap of developing rote responding due to deficiencies in the related verbal repertoires.
VB-MAPP Milestones Assessment
Designed to provide a representative sample of a child’s existing verbal and related skills. The assessment contains 170 measurable learning and language milestones that are sequenced and balanced across 3 developmental levels (0-18 months, 18-30 months, and 30-48 months). The skills assessed include mand, tact, echoic, intraverbal, listener, motor imitation, independent play, social and social play, visual perceptual and matching-to-sample, linguistic structure, group and classroom skills, and early academics. Included in the Milestones Assessment is the Early Echoic Skills Assessment (EESA) subtest developed by Barbara E. Esch, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, BCBA-D.
VB-MAPP Barriers Assessment
Provides an assessment of 24 common learning and language acquisition barriers faced by children with autism or other developmental disabilities. The barriers include behavior problems, instructional control, defective mands, defective tacts, defective echoic, defective imitation, defective visual perception and matching-to-sample, defective listener skills, defective intraverbal, defective social skills, prompt dependency, scrolling, defective scanning, defective conditional discriminations, failure to generalize, weak motivators, response requirement weakens the motivators, reinforcer dependency, self-stimulation, defective articulation, obsessive-compulsive behavior, hyperactive behavior, failure to make eye contact, and sensory defensiveness. By identifying these barriers, the clinician can develop specific intervention strategies to help overcome these problems, which can lead to more effective learning.
VB-MAPP Transition Assessment
Contains 18 assessment areas and can help to identify whether a child is making meaningful progress and has acquired the skills necessary for learning in a less restrictive educational environment. This assessment tool can provide a measurable way for a child’s IEP team to make decisions and set priorities in order to meet the child’s educational needs. The assessment is comprised of several summary measures from other parts of the VB-MAPP, as well as a variety of other skills that can affect transition. The assessment includes measures of the overall score on the VB-MAPP Milestones Assessment, the overall score on the VB-MAPP Barriers Assessment, negative behaviors, classroom routines and group skills, social skills, academic independence, generalization, variation of reinforcers, rate of skill acquisition, retention, natural environment learning, transfer skills, adaptability to change, spontaneity, independent play, general self-help, toileting skills, and eating skills.
VB-MAPP Placement and IEP Goals
Correspond with the four assessments above. The placement guide provides specific direction for each of the 170 milestones in the Milestones Assessment as well as suggestions for IEP goals. The placement recommendations can help the program designer balance out an intervention program, and ensure that all the relevant parts of the necessary intervention are included.
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The VB-MAPP Protocol contains 35 pages of Task Analysis and Supporting Skills for 14 of the 16 domains of the Milestones Assessment (there is no task analysis and supporting skills list provided for the echoic or spontaneous vocal behavior domains). The task analysis skills can be identified as those that are directly related to the target milestone and represent earlier steps in reaching that milestone. The supporting skills supplement the milestones with a number of important language, learning, and social skills that should be developed along with the milestones. The supporting skills are not necessarily prerequisites for a specific milestone, or need to be worked on in the exact order that they are presented (like the task analysis skills require). Nonetheless, the supporting skills contained in this section of the Protocol are an essential part of any intervention program.
The overall results of the VB-MAPP will provide valuable information that will serve as a guide for the development of an effective individualized language, social skills and learning curriculum. The VB-MAPP is now available through
Assessments are Part of the Evaluation Procedures
The IEP process includes two types of evaluations:
An initial evaluation is when your child is referred to special education for the first time to be evaluated in all suspected areas of disability. This evaluation is to determine if your child has a disability, and if so, if they are eligible for special education. The evaluations in all suspected areas of disability also serve to determine the child’s educational needs and to drive decision making about appropriate programming.
A reevaluation takes place after your child has been determined to be eligible for special education determined though the initial evaluation There are two types of reevaluations:
Triennial Reevaluation (conducted minimally every three years)
At least every three years, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools to reevaluate students with IEPs.
The triennial’s purpose is to determine:
the child’s updated needs to inform changes to the IEP
if the child remains eligible for special education based upon the updated needs.
Reevaluation Triggered by Parents or Teachers
Teachers and parents may determine that a student needs to be evaluated before the triennial is due.
To learn more about evaluations:
Initial and Triennials