Assessment Commonly Used in ABA

The first step for anyone wanting to start an ABA program is to get an assessment of the individual’s current skill level. There are a number of assessments available, and you should try to get an assessment that is as comprehensive as possible. This could include:

  • Functional Behavioral Assessment. Functional behavioral assessment (FBA) is a systematic set of strategies that is used to determine the underlying function or purpose of a behavior, so that an effective intervention plan can be developed. FBA consists of describing the interfering or problem behavior, identifying antecedent or consequent events that control the behavior, developing a hypothesis of the behavior, and testing the hypothesis. Data collection is an important part of the FBA process.

  • Developmental Assessment. Norm-referenced developmental assessments provide information about how your child is developing in all areas compared to peers his or her own age. Developmental Assessments measure cognition, communication, motor, adaptive, and social skills. Some developmental assessments may only be completed by a licensed psychologist. However, other developmental scales may be implemented by anyone with advanced training in assessment.

  • Domain Specific Assessment. Specialized assessments are available for each area of development. For example, a number of assessments exist for the sole purpose of assessing language development and social skills. These measures are utilized to determine specific information about a child’s delay. For example, a developmental assessment may reveal that a child has delays in language and social skills. Subsequent assessment must then be completed in those areas in order to determine the nature and extent of the delay. You may find it beneficial to consult with specialists to assist you in meeting your child’s needs within each domain.

  • Neuropsychological Assessment. Neuropsychological assessments measure cognitive function and can only be administered by licensed psychologists. These measures are more accurate for child with vocal expressive language. However, appropriate measures for non-verbal children are available.

  • Criterion-Referenced Assessments. Criterion-referenced assessments provide information about skills that in your child’s repertoire. Criterion-referenced assessments are not designed to diagnose or to measure delay but rather to determine what skills your child is able to perform as well as what skills your child should learn next. Criterion-referenced assessments may be completed by anyone with advanced training in assessment. Additionally, criterion-referenced assessments are excellent to use for program development.

    Popular criterion-referenced assessments include:
    The Brigance, the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills (ABLLS), the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP), and the Hawaii Early Learning Profile (HELP).

  • Other Assessments. Your child should also have other assessments completed as often as necessary.  These assessments include preference assessments and skill probes. These measures should be regular components of your child’s educational program.

Solid assessments provide a baseline upon which to begin building an ABA program. In addition, the assessment outcomes can provide year-to-year objective markers of progress (or lack thereof) of the interventions chosen.

The American Academy of Neurology and the Child Neurology Society has released guidance on appropriate assessments for professionals working with children with autism.