The ABLLS-R is an abbreviation for the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills - Revised. The original ABLLS was developed by James W. Partington, Ph.D., BCBA-D and Mark L. Sundberg, Ph.D, BCBA-D and is based on B.F.Skinner's analysis of verbal behaviour and the theoretical work of several others since Skinner's book. Prior to creating the ABLLS, Sundberg and Partington wrote "Teaching Language to Children with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities" which described how to create an intervention program based on Verbal Behaviour Analysis. This book and the subsequent ABLLS books are written for those who already have knowledge and training in Applied Behaviour Analysis and various types of augmentative communication systems. The ABLLS was updated (Revised) in 2006 by Dr. Partington. The revised version incorporates many new task items and provides a more specific sequence in the developmental order of items within the various skill areas.
What is the ABLLS-R?The revised assessment of basic language and learning skills (ABLLS-R) is an assessment tool, curriculum guide, and skills-tracking system used to help guide the instruction of language and critical learning skills for children with autism or other developmental disabilities. It is the most commonly used curriculum in behavioural intervention programs for children with autism and therefore, understanding technical aspects of behavior analysis and Skinner's Verbal Behavior are important to a robust understanding of the ABLLS-R.
The ABLLS-R provides a 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 and during kindergarten. It provides both parents and professionals with criterion-referenced information regarding a child’s current skills, and provides a curriculum that can serve as a basis for the selection of educational objectives. It is not a diagnostic device; it does not compare the child to norms or the performance of other children.
The ABLLS-R comprises two documents. The ABLLS-R Protocol is used to score the child’s performance on the task items and provides 15 appendices that allow for the tracking of a variety of specific skills that are included in the assessment. The ABLLS-R Guide provides information about the features of the ABLLS-R, how to correctly score items, and how to develop Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals and objectives that clearly define and target the learning needs of a student.
The ABLLS-R assesses the strengths and weaknesses of an individual in each of the 25 skill sets. Each skill set is broken down into multiple skills, ordered by typical development or complexity. So, a skill of F1 (Requests by indicating) is a simpler skill than F12 (Requesting Help). Usually, lower level skills are needed before proceeding to teach higher skills. The skills measured in the ABLLS-R range from essential abilities like orienting on people and objects to complex skills like talking about pleasant things that are not immediately present (i.e., "How was your day?"). The largest subcategory of skills examined are language with the categories defined by function of language and not by traditional abstract categorization.
The ABLLS-R assessment is conducted via observation of the child's behavior in each skill area. Some skills are difficult or time-consuming to test, so instructors frequently accept anecdotal evidence from parents and other caregivers as to a child's ability at a given skill-level. The end result of the ABLLS-R assessment, which can take up to two weeks to complete, should be a set of recommendations for teaching objectives that are unique to that child.
When completing the assessment, you rate how well the student can accomplish the task with the rubric. If they can’t do it at all you leave it blank. The rubric will indicate how many boxes to fill in if they can somewhat do the task. Once you go through all of the tasks your progress tracking sheet will look something like this:
The ABLLS-R is only as useful as the accuracy of the information that went into completing it and the skill of the administrator in both completing the ABLLS-R and sorting through the potential recommendations for future goals. While it is commonly said that anyone can complete an ABLLS-R, it has been my experience that without an understanding of the behavioral principles underlying it, the resulting profile is less accurate and informative. I recommend that the ABLLS-R be completed by someone who is likely to be objective about a child and their abilities who also has significant experience with children with language delays and other behavioral deficits commonly associated with autism spectrum disorders.
How can you track progress with the ABLLS?
- Addresses basic language, academic, self-help, classroom, and gross and fine motor skill sets.
- Provides quick review for parents and educators to identify skill level of student
- Easy for parents and teachers to communicate about the student’s educational programming
- Relatively inexpensive.
- Skill lists are not exhaustive (544 skills).
- Although, it can be used for children with a variety of developmental disabilities, it is most appropriate for children with autism.
- It does not provide an outline of teaching strategies or task analyses for skills. It is simply a list of skills.
- Skills are mostly in order of childhood development, but is not norm-referenced.
- Can only be effectively used by someone with knowledge and training in Autism and Applied Behaviour Analysis.
In my opinion, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages and I feel that there are better curricula on the market that meet the wide range of needs that our students present. Chris and I will be discussing these in the coming weeks and hope that you will join us every Wednesday for these discussions. Next week I will be discussing the VB-MAPP and Chris will be discussing Unique Learning Systems. I hope that you will join us!
In the meantime, have you used or are you currently using the ABLLS-R in your classroom? What are your thoughts on it? I'd love to hear from you! Leave me a comment below and I will respond! Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to hop one to Chris' blog to see her thoughts on STAR.