ABA Assessments

“Assessment” can be a scary word no matter who you are – a parent of a young child, a new employee in the workplace, a student in the classroom, self-assessments for New Years resolutions, or other. When people hear the term ‘assessment’, they may think oh no, someone is going to criticize me. But without assessments, many of us would have difficulty at school, at work, and in our social relationships.

Why Do We Use ABA Assessments?

Have you had experience with a client receiving ABA therapy, and the program was too difficult for them? Or the client was not interacting with the program because the demands were too easy? That is a clear indicator that an assessment needs to be completed so appropriate programs are individualized to the client’s needs. If a program is too difficult, or too easy, it can lead to frustration for both the client and practitioner, as well as waste valuable resources like time and money.

We use assessments to inform us about skill deficiencies and areas of behaviour change to target that would be developmentally appropriate for the learners’ skill level.

How To Use ABA Assessments?

Assessments are used to evaluate the quality of something. Whether it is a permanent product of our work, an observation of our performance, or checklist of our skills, it is important that there is a way to measure and identify skills and areas in need of improvement. Behavioural assessments include methods like direct observations, checklists, interviews, and tests, which will identify behaviour change targets.

How Often Should We Assess?

Assessments should be conducted at the beginning as well as periodically throughout the working relationship between client and practitioner. Depending on where you live and what assistance may be provided to clients and families, if families receive funding assessments may be required every 6 months to document their progress, or used for research to determine the efficacy of treatment.

Every situation is different. You may need to complete an assessment sooner than every 6 months, or every 6 months may suffice for the client’s needs and trajectory. Unfortunately, there is no formula for knowing how often an assessment should be completed. With that said, assessments are necessary and must be conducted for the families’, clients’, and practitioners’ needs (as stated earlier, assessments may need to be completed to release government funding, or for educational placements, to gain access to additional resources, for insurance policies, or other).

When you download our FREE student program planning guide say “goodbye” to gaps in program planning!
Use this to help you organize a thorough developmental program covering all essential skill areas!

Common ABA Assessments

Now that we know why we need to conduct behavioural assessments (to match the right client with the right skill building programs), how do you know which assessment to use? Below we list some common assessments used in the field of Applied Behavioural Analysis.

Early Start Denver Model

The ESDM is designed for learners 12-48 months old. It is perfect for beginner learners as it includes developmental goals such as joint attention, eye contact, pointing, and beginner receptive skills like “come here”, “sit down”, “stop”, “wait”, and “clean up.”

Verbal Behaviour Milestones Assessment Placement Program

The VB-MAPP is age-normed and relatively quick to implement. It is used to track language, learning, and social skills of learners.

Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills – Revised

The ABLLS-R is a thorough tool used to track the progress of basic linguistic and functional skills of learners. Compared to the VB-MAPP, this assessment tool takes longer to complete as it breaks down each language component into smaller, more specific skills. Although it may take longer to complete, it provides a more thorough assessment of specific skill areas.

Promoting Emergence of Advanced Knowledge

The PEAK assessment is also age-normed and evaluates areas of strength and areas of improvement for language and cognition skills.

What Does ‘Age-Normed’ Mean?

Age-normed means that developmental milestones were attained by scoring the averages of typically developing children specific to that developmental level (or age group; with the VB-MAPP for example, the developmental levels are 0-18, 18-30, and 30-48 months).

How To Use ABA Assessments

Instructing our readers on how to use each individual type of assessment is beyond the scope of this blog post. What we want to highlight, however, is that assessments are a guide to programming. Do not create programs and targets that teach only to the skills in the assessment – doing so will lead to gaps and omissions in learning.

When creating a program and setting targets for your learner, it must be individualized in order to be the most effective. As practitioners, our primary goal should not be to fill in every cell of the assessment. Assessments are necessary and should be used on a regular and continuous basis, as well as referred to when creating programs and informing current and future goals for clients.

Check out our YouTube video where we review the 4 types assessments listed above!

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