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Saturday, 22 August 2015

Inside the HELP Part 1: Assessment

Hi Everyone!  I wanted to continue discussing the HELP (Hawaii Early Learning Profile) today with a focus on how to use it as an assessment tool.  For the next few week, every Saturday, I will be posting about a different aspect of using the HELP.

“Assessment for learning is the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there.”
Assessment Reform Group (2002)

The first step in using the Hawaii Early Learning Profile (HELP©) is the student assessment.  In the assessment phase, educators are establishing a baseline of skills the student has already acquired or mastered.  
It is important to note that only skills that are demonstrated by the student without assistance can be recorded as  mastered with a positive /+/ score.  If a student requires prompting to complete a task, or demonstrate the required response, it is not mastered.

Step 1:  Parent Interview

The first step in completing the HELP© Assessment is the parent interview.  This interview is an important piece of the assessment for two reasons:  
 1)  Parents know their children the best and will usually provide you with accurate information.                           
2)  Some areas of the HELP cannot be assessed at school, especially for some skills in the Self-Help domain.
Parent interviews are usually completed prior to the student entering the classroom.  Typically, these are done in August or September, before the start of the new school year and completed on an annual basis at this time.  The parent interview is usually  completed by the resource and/or the classroom teacher and can be completed in a one hour meeting.
To complete the parent interview, I like to use the Strands booklets.  The skills in the Strands booklets are grouped into strands within each domain and the skills within each strand are developmentally-sequenced.  For example, under the Self-Help domain, skills are grouped together under strands such as toileting, grooming, dressing, etc.  The organization of the booklet allows you to quickly and easily find the set of skills on which you would like to question the parents.  
As parents answers your questions about each skill, you would use the credit key to score the student’s ability in performing the skills.  Once the parent interview is completed, the next step in the assessment process is observation of the student.

Step 2:  Student Observation

The student observation can be completed by the classroom teacher, resource teacher or educational assistant who has been trained in using the HELP©.  Using the Strands booklet, the assigned observer watches the student throughout the day in all school environments and records his/her responses and behaviour using the credit key.
The observer can also be working with the student at the same time, however, I find it more efficient to have another person work with the student, so the observer can focus on recording the student’s scores.  I realize, however, that nine times out of ten this is not possible in a school setting.
The observation period should last at least a few days and may take up to two weeks to complete.  It is important that observations are completed over several days to ensure that the student has truly acquired a skill.  
It is probable that not all the skills you wish to asses the student upon will be observed during the observation period.  For those skills, direct assessment will be required.

Step 3:  Direct Assessment

In this portion of the HELP© assessment, the assessor continues to use the Strands booklet to score the student’s responses.  The classroom teacher, resource teacher or educational assistant works with the student one-on-one to complete tasks, or elicit identified responses from the student.
And like the observation period, the direct assessment may take up to two weeks to complete.  Unlike, the observation period, the direct assessment should be completed by at least two different people, in two different settings, with at least two different set of materials to ensure generalization and mastery of the skill.

Step 4:  Transferring the Data

The final step in completing the HELP© assessment is analyzing and transferring the data.  The student’s scores that were recorded in the Strands booklet are transferred to the HELP© charts for easy reference.
Skills or responses that have been consistently demonstrated by the student and scored as positive /+/ are highlighted on the student’s HELP chart.  
As the student masters more skills, the chart is updated and skills are highlighted using a different colour.  HELP charts should be updated at each reporting period throughout the school year.

Additional Instructions

It is important to note that you may not assess a student on some skills or strands in the HELP© as they may not be appropriate for the student due to age, disability or functional relevance.  These skills also wouldn’t be used in curriculum planning or in selecting IEP goals.
When determining which skills to assess the student on, take into consideration the student’s chronological age, as well as their developmental age based on diagnostic reports provided by psychologists, which can be found in the student’s OSR ( Ontario Student Record).  
For most students you will not bother to assess them on skills that are typically found in children from birth to six months, or on some skills in the Self-Help section as these are not skills that could be taught in a school setting.  There are skills, however, that are recommended in the strands booklet that should always be assessed.  These skills are highlighted by an asterisk* next to the skill number.
Starting the assessment with the parent interview will provide you with useful information on where you need to conduct additional assessment.  Part of your assessment following the parent interview should include observing the student performing certain skills to ensure generalization across people and environments.  This is particularly important for students with Autism who frequently demonstrate a poor ability to generalize skills.
Using the parent interview as a starting point, you can decide which skills to target for observation.  To ensure that you have targeted the most appropriate skills, the HELP© provides this guideline, “If a child displays two or more consecutive skills in a Strand with good quality, you can generally assume that he has achieved earlier skills due to their hierarchical relationship”.  (HELP Strands© Vort Corporation 1992-2007).
For determining when to stop assessment in a particular strand, the HELP© provides this general guideline which states, “after a child misses more than two consecutive skills or behaviours, you can generally assume he has not yet accomplished higher skills in that particular strand.” (HELP Strands© Vort Corporation 1992-2007).
Adhering to these guidelines, will assist you with determining if you have started assessing at an appropriate  age level and at what age level to stop the assessment, thus saving you time during the assessment phase.  

Do you use the HELP in your classroom?  How do you use the assessment tools?  i'd love to hear from you!  Thanks for stopping by and I hope you'll come back next week when I discuss how to use the HELP to write IEP goals.

Until then,

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Creating Educational E-Portfolios

Hey Everyone!  It's my day to post for the We Teach SPED group and so I thought I would share some info about creating and using digital portfolios in your classroom.

Digital Portfolios:  What are they?

For decades, students have been completing assignments in school. Often, these were seen only by the teacher, graded and returned to the student. Sometimes, the work was posted on a classroom wall or in a school hallway. Many teachers kept portfolios of student work for report card conferences, and the rare teacher taught students how to build their own portfolios from their work.
With more and more schools going paperless or migrating to the "cloud" (storing files on the Internet), student work has become more easily shareable, accessible by many, and more easily organized. Many teachers have turned to digital portfolios -- or "e-portfolios" -- for their students. These digital portfolios have caused a huge shift in how teachers assign, collect and assess student classwork and projects.

In its basic definition, an educational e-portfolio is a digital collection of student work that evidences mastery of a set of skills, applied knowledge, and behaviours.  According to Teacher vision, portfolios can be divided into two groups :
"Process oriented

Process oriented portfolios tell a story about the growth of a learner. They document the processes of learning and creating, including earlier drafts, reflections on the process, and obstacles encountered along the way. They may be organized into skill areas or themes, yet each contains a student's work from the beginning, middle, and end of a learning unit. For example, there may be three drafts of a short story: a preliminary draft, a reworked draft reflecting teacher and peer feedback, and a final draft. The student can comment on the ways one is better than the other. In this manner, the artifacts can be compared providing evidence about how the student's skills have improved. In any number of ways, in writing or perhaps during a parent-teacher conference, the student would reflect on the learning process: identifying how skills have changed, celebrating accomplishments, and establishing present and future challenges.

Product oriented
Product oriented portfolios are collections of work a student considers his or her best. The aim is to document and reflect on the quality and range of accomplishments rather than the process that produced them. It generally requires a student to collect all of her work until the end, at which time she must choose artifacts that represent work of the highest quality."

Using E-Portfolios in the SPED Classroom

Documenting learning, growth and achievement can be tricky with students with special needs.  Especially if they have limited abilities in verbal communication and writing.  Showing parents the end products of some of our students' work can be misleading, especially if they don't what level of prompting was used when completing the task.  And for most of the skills that our students learn, it is impossible to demonstrate growth through traditional portfolio products.  

But, I love using e-portfoilios with my students!  By creating digital documentation of learning through pictures and videos, I can share with parents the learning process and growth that their children are making throughout the year.  I can also demonstrate the teaching procedures and strategies that we use in the classroom through video clips, so that parents can be consistent when working on these skills at home.  Parents love being able to see the pictures and videos and being able to access them whenever they have time.

Five Tools for Creating e-Portfolios

Google Sites ( http://sites.google.com ) is a good platform on which students and teachers that have Google Apps for Education accounts can build digital portfolios. Page-level permissions in Google Sites allows the creator of a site to share and give editing access to specific pages within a site rather than giving access to edit the entire site. To use page-level permissions open your Google Site editor then click "enable page-level permissions." With page-level permissions activated you can share and allow editing for each page individually. A video tutorial on using page-level permissions can be found at http://bitly.com/FTPLP15 A 47 page guide to Google Sites can be seen here http://bitly.com/ftgsites.

Weebly ( http://weebly.com ) can be a great digital portfolio platform for your students. Weebly makes it easy to create websites that look great and are easy to navigate. Weebly users can select from a superb collection of site templates and themes. The Weebly mobile apps allow users to edit and add content on the go. Weebly for Education (http://education.weebly.com/) includes all of the intuitive website-building and blogging tools found on Weebly plus features built specifically for education. Weebly for Education offers bulk creation of student accounts which teachers can manage and moderate. Students can create their own websites and blogs using the accounts that you create for them.

Seesaw ( http://web.seesaw.me/ ) is a free service designed for creating digital portfolios on iPads, Android tablets, and Chromebooks. Students can add artifacts to their portfolios by taking pictures of their work (in the case of a worksheet or other physical item), by writing about what they've learned, or by shooting a short video to record something they have learned. Students can add voice comments to their pictures to clarify what their pictures document. To get started with Seesaw create a free classroom account. Students join the classroom by scanning a QR code (you will have to print it or project it) that grants them access to your Seesaw classroom. As the teacher you can see and sort all of your students' Seesaw submissions. Seesaw allows parents to create
accounts through which they can see the work of their children. As a teacher you can send notifications to parents when their children make a new Seesaw submission. Visit
http://bitly.com/ftseesaw to watch a series of tutorials about Seesaw.

Dropr ( http://dropr.com ) is a free service for creating portfolios of your images, videos, and audio files. Within your Dropr account you can have multiple portfolio pages. If you
wanted to have a page for images that you took in the fall and a page for images that you took in the spring, you can do that in Dropr. To create a Dropr portfolio start by signing up with a social media profile or with your email address. Then start your first project by uploading a cover image. Once you have started a project you can drag and drop media from your desktop to the Dropr website. Each project can include text in addition to the media that you upload to it. Each of your projects will have a different URL. You can work on your projects in private until you are ready to share them with the world. Your Dropr projects can be embedded into a blog as a slideshow.

Clipix ( http://clipix.com ) will initially remind you of Pinterest in that you can "clip" images, videos, and links to save on digital clipboards. Clipix also supports uploading files from your computer to your Clipix clipboards. Each of the clipboards that you create in your Clipix account can be kept private or made public. There is also a privately shared option that can be used for collaborating on clipboard creation. Clipix's basic functions are very similar to other services in the same market. The user interface on Clipix feels less cluttered to me than that of some of its competitors. The option to customize your clipboard background is a nice touch too. Clipix offers Android and iOS apps that will synchronize with your online Clipix account.

Defining Your Needs

I personally use Google Sites for my e-portfolios, as we are a Google Education board.  However, with so many options for collecting and sharing student work, it's hard to know which method or tool to use. 
Here are some guiding questions to consider before you commit to a tool or platform:
  • Can student work be made public or is it private?
  • Is student work easily organized by date, course or some other category?
  • Are the portfolios transferable from year to year as students move through the school?
  • Can teachers export it when students leave the school?
  • Does the platform allow for multiple file types (documents, pictures, sound files, video files)?
  • What are the costs for using the tool or platform?
  • Can a teacher create a teacher account and student accounts? 
  • Can the tool be integrated into an existing SMS or other school-wide database and/or grade book?
Do you use e-portfolios in your classroom?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on them!  And don't forget to go to the We Teach SPED Facebook page for more informative posts coming up this month!

Until next time,

Saturday, 15 August 2015

SPED Chat Saturday!

Hi Everyone!  Today I am excited to be leading SPED Chat Saturday with a discussion and blog link up on Technology for SPED!  I hope you will join in on the conversation by leaving a comment on this post and/or linking up your own blog post on how you use technology with your SPED students.  You can also join our SPED Tribe on Google+ and suggest a topic that you would love to learn more about!

Using Technology with SPED Students

When I signed up to lead this SPED Chat, I was excited to share how I use technology in my classroom.  But, the more I thought about what I would write in this post, the more I realized what a huge topic it is and that I couldn't share everything in one blog post.  If you follow my blog, then you will know that I have already written on this subject, mainly about iPads and apps that I use with my students.  If you are new to my blog, you can find those posts under "Tech Tidbits" at the top of this page.  I will continue to write about different apps and ways I use iPads in my classroom throughout the upcoming school year, but today, I want to share with you some other forms of technology I use with my students.

iPads - The 21st Century Swiss Army Knife

I can't do a blog post about technology without talking about iPads/iPods.  I absolutely LOVE using iPads with my students.  For us, they serve many, many purposes and save us a lot of money.  Before we had iPads in my classroom, we had many items such as digital cameras, video cameras, computer and expensive software, etc. that we used with our students.  With the iPads, we no longer need or use any of these items and the apps that have replaced the software are far more less expensive.  We use iPads for the following purposes in my room:  
  • Student Learning Activities:  there are so many educational apps available that we use to teach our students new skills and practice old ones.  For a list of my favourites, click here.  There are apps available across developmental domains, including cognitive, language, fine motor, self-help and social skills.
  • Document Student Learning:  It so easy to demonstrate learning to parents, therapists and principals using iPads/iPods.  I like to keep digital portfolios on my students' learning (more about this coming up on August 19th) to show their parents and others.  With the ability to take pictures and video, we are able to capture some great learning moments throughout the day, everyday.
  • Data Collection:  We are currently involved in a research study in which we are collecting data on students' progress and excessive behaviours using iPads.  Before this study, we used iPods for recording excessive behaviours using Behaviour Tracker Pro.  This allowed us to go paperless and made data collection much easier and less time-consuming as the graphing is done for you in the app.
  • Make Teaching Materials:  using different apps, some of which come with libraries of photos, and photos that we take, we are able to create a variety of teaching materials for our students including social stories, visual supports, communication boards, and stimulus materials for discrete trial teaching.
  • Visual Schedules:  we have used iPods with some students for their visual schedules.  There are a few apps available for this purpose, in which you can even set audio timers to alert the student that the activity has ended and to look at their iPod to see what's next.  This is an especially great tool for students in inclusive settings, or multiple classrooms in the school.
  • Group Learning Activities:  If there is an app that is appropriate for all of the students to use, I will use it in my group instruction on my SMART board through our Apple TV.  There are some great game apps that are also educational and so I will use those to work on social and communication skills required when playing games.  I will also use the DTT apps in my group lessons for student responses.
  • Augmentative Communication:  A few of my students use iPads/iPods with Proloquo 2 Go as their form of communication.  We purchased this app for my classroom, so we also use it during group instruction periods for students to respond to questions and request a turn when playing games or completing tasks on the SMART Board.
  • Reinforcement:  my students love using iPads, so of course we also use them for reinforcement!  AFTER their work is completed, of course!

SMART Boards - A Great Tool for Group Instruction

It took me a lot of fund-raising to get my SMART Board, but it was totally worth it!  I love my SMART Board and couldn't imagine running my group lessons without it!  It has been an absolute game changer in my classroom!  Since starting to use it, my students have become more engaged in group lessons and excessive behaviours during this time have decreased. We have also been able to lower the rates of reinforcement as my students find using the SMART Board so reinforcing!  Here are a few ways I use it:
  • Morning Meetings, Literacy, Math and Music Lessons:  yes, I use my SMART Board for all of my group lessons at the carpet.  I make my own lessons in SMART Notebook, or download them from SMART Exchange.  And with the use of You Tube Videos, on line books and websites like ABC Twiggles, my students are highly motivated and super engaged during these lessons!
  • Whole Class Body Breaks:  Whenever the students seemed like they needed a little chill time, or sam movement, we would turn on the SMART Board, usually to You Tube and play one of their dancing songs.  Some of our favourites are "I'm Elmo and I Know It", "I'm a Gummy Bear", and so on.  I have read so much about Go Noodle this summer, that I am excited to try it in September.
  • Chill Time:  The staff in my classroom don't get breaks or lunch.  Being a Section 23 classroom in a regular school, there is no one to cover our breaks or lunches. So, while we are eating our lunches, the kids gather on the carpet and chill out while watching a movie or You Tube songs.  There are so many educational songs on You Tube that my kiddos love!  One of my students this year, even started talking by repeating some of these songs!  He had never spoken a word prior to this!  Now, if we could only get him to imitate us when we try to get him to say words!  LOL!

Google Chromebooks - My Board's Choice 

Two years ago, my school board conducted pilot projects in a few select schools to test out new forms of assistive technology.  Prior to this, every school had a laptop cart or two, with a class set of Dell laptops.  And if you have ever used Dells, you would know that they simply don't last with constant use.  My board piloted three different devices and the students' favourite were the Chrome Books.  I am still learning how to use these and all of the apps and extensions that go with them, but here are a few ways to use them:
  • Reading Practice:  My students love RAZ Kids and Tumble Books!  They are both online collections of levelled readers, and students can choose to read the books by themselves, or listen to the stories.
  • Writing Practice:  With Google Docs, students can write stories and share them with their classmates.  The nice feature in Google Docs is the automatic saving.  It cuts down on an extra step to teach my students when using the computer for writing activities.
  • Math Practice:   There are a few free websites that offer games at different levels for students to practice a variety of math skills.  One that my board uses is Cool Math Games.
So, those are my top choices for technology in the SPED classroom.  I will be doing more posts on technology in the future, but I would love to hear from you about what you like to learn more about.  I would also love to know how you use technology in your classroom!  Do you have any favourite apps or websites that I should know about?  Leave me a comment or link up below!  And thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Alternative Curricula Week 4: The HELP

Hey Everyone!  We're back for week 4 of our series on Alternative Curricula.  This week I am reviewing the Hawaii Early Learning Profile or HELP for short.

What is it?

The HELP is a widely used curriculum-based assessment and tracking tool for students who are exhibiting ‘typical’ development and for students who may have developmental delays. Resources in the HELP include: the Assessment Manual, the Curriculum Guide, Curriculum-based Assessment Checklists, Strands and Charts. It is designed to be used by those working in a variety of settings and by those involved in a multidisciplinary team approach. The HELP materials cover 1,250 unique behaviours and skills in 6 primary domains (cognitive, language, gross motor, fine motor, social and self help).  The HELP is used to identify needs, track growth and development, and determine next steps for individual objectives.

Based on a developmental approach:

The HELP is organized according to typical developmental stages, matching behaviours and skills to a developmental stage which is measured in months.  The curriculum guide provides activities to promote the next developmental stage a child should reach in their development.  The underlying principle of the developmental approach is that practice will help each child make progress and show improvement.


The HELP is broken down into several components, however, the three main tools that I use are the Curriculum Guides, Skill Strands and Charts.  Everything in the HELP family is divided between ages 0-3 and 3-6.  This allows you to purchase and only use the materials that appropriate for for student based on their developmental age.  I must admit though, that for most of my students with Autism, we end up working out of both sets of materials due to their splinter skills.  But, when I get a new student, especially if they are young, I almost always start with the 0-3 set of materials.

Within the strands booklets, you find all of the skills listed in the assessment and curriculum guides.  The skills are arranged into 6 different developmental domains and then broken down into strands within each developmental domain.  I really like this feature because it allows me to easily find a skill or goal.  For each skill in the strands booklets, there is a number assigned to it, as well as an age range (based on typical development), and a brief description of the goal. 

In the assessment and curriculum guides, there is a more detailed description of the behaviour or skill, as well as assessment materials needed and assessment procedures, how to make adaptations for testing, a list of suggested instructional materials and ideas on how to teach the skill.

In the tracking charts, the skills are arranged according to developmental domain, identified by their HELP number with a brief description of the behaviour or skill.  The charts are laid out in chronological order, measured by month and skills are shown in the developmental stage that would appear in typically developing children.

Why I Like the HELP

I have used several different assessment and curriculum tools in my career, including the ABLLS, ABLLS-R, VB-MAPP and Carolina Curriculum.  While each of these have their advantages when teaching students with Autism, I have found that none of them are as comprehensive in scope and sequence as the HELP.  When my SLP, OT, or PT makes a recommendation for one of my students, I can always find the corresponding HELP goal to match the recommendation.  This allows me to ensure that their recommendations are being followed through with and that it is covered in the student's IEP.  The range of skills and behaviours also provides us with appropriate replacement skills to teach when we are implementing behaviour treatment plans and trying to reduce excessive behaviours. 

The HELP covers a broad range of skills that are appropriate for students with many different disabilities.  It even has goals for sign language, speech reading and wheelchair skills!  The strands booklets takes the guess work out of what to teach next, as the skills are arranged within in strand according to typical developmental sequence.  And the teaching suggestions in the curriculum guide are helpful when deciding how to teach a skill.  The HELP charts make it easy to track progress, and understand where you student is functioning developmentally.  The charts also provide an easy way to show parents the progress their child has made and also allows them to better understand their child's level of development.

Weaknesses of the HELP  

While the HELP is the best assessment and curriculum tool that I have used, it is not perfect. It is time-consuming to complete the assessment and it does not come with assessment or instructional materials.  We have spent years building a HELP assessment kit, full of materials that we use to assess students.  And while the instructional strategies are handy, I find that I have to write my own teaching plans for the EAs to follow.  It also takes a while to become comfortable with it to complete the assessments.  The scoring instructions provided in the assessment are a bit too cumbersome for my taste, so I have simplified it for ease of use in my classroom.  And although it has been widely used in Head Start, Best Start, and early intervention programs, childcares and schools, it has not been used in any research studies to my knowledge.

With that said, I will still continue to use the HELP in my classroom and look forward to seeing how it changes in the future.  Vort (the corporation that owns HELP) is currently working on a web-based system for it, but I haven't heard much more about it than that.  I am also working on a research project called the Individual Curriculum Builder, that is comprised of software system that allows teachers to design their student's daily schedules, choose their IEP goals and write teaching programs to accompany them.  The second component of this system is an electronic data collection system using iPads.  The wonderful thing about this system is that the data is automatically graphed for us at the end of the day!  We have been working on this project for a year now and will be continuing this school year. If you are interested in learning more about the system, you can watch the tutorial I made for my colleagues here:

I will be going into more depth about using the HELP for those of you who are interested in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on it and if you have, or are currently using it.  And don't forget to hop over to Chris' blog to hear about some other functional curricula she uses.

Until next time,

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Alternative Curricula Week 3: The VB-MAPP

Welcome back to week 3 in our series on Alternative Curricula!  This week I will be reviewing the Verbal Behaviour Milestones Assessment and Placement Program, or VB-MAPP for short.

The Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP) is an assessment, skills-tracking system and curriculum guide to assess the language, learning and social skills of children with autism or other developmental disabilities. A strong focus of the VB-MAPP is language and social interaction, which are the predominant areas of weakness in children with autism.

The VB-MAPP is based on the principles and procedures of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), B.F. Skinner's behavioral analysis of language, verbal behavior and establishment of developmental milestones.  It was developed by Mark Sundberg, Ph.D., BCBA-D and is a continuation of the author's 30+ year research in language assessment and intervention as it applies to individuals with autism. A contributing author to the VB-MAPP is Barbara Esch, Ph.D, CCC-SLP, BCBA-D, a speech and language pathologist who includes an assessment of speech sounds with a guide for developmental progression called the Early Echoic Skills Assessment (EESA.)

The VB-MAPP is most commonly used to assess individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities, but can also be used for children who demonstrate delays in language development. It is intended to be used by individuals who have training in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and is primarily used by behavior analysts, speech-language pathologists, and special educators to assess strengths and weaknesses in skills and behaviors that might impede language and social development, but for a teacher without any background in ABA, the VB-MAPP can be very overwhelming. The results of the assessment help to guide curriculum planning and track skill acquisition.

The overall program contains the following five components:

The Milestones Skills Assessment - Assesses 170 milestones balanced across 3 levels of typical development (0-18 months; 18-30 months; and 30-48 months).  The milestones cover 16 key domains (e.g., mand, tact, intraverbal, listener, visual perceptual, play, social, and early academic skills). One of the 16 areas, the echoic, includes the Early Echoic Skills Assessment (EESA) developed by Dr. Barbara Esch, SLP-CCC, BCBA-D.

The Barriers Assessment - Assesses 24 language and learning barriers that may be preventing a child of any age from making progress (e.g., prompt dependency, non compliance, behavior problems, impaired mands, demand weakens motivation, sensory defensiveness). 

The Transition Assessment – Assesses 18 different areas that can assist the IEP team in making transition and educational placement decisions for a child (e.g., overall Milestones and Barriers scores, social skills, group learning, independent work, self-care skills, adaptability to change). 

The Skills Task Analysis and Tracking System - Contains over 900 skills that support the Milestones. For example, for the mand 15 Milestones are identified for purposes of assessment, but the Task Analysis contains a total of 93 individual manding skills that can provide suggestions for daily mand training. Some of the tasks are earlier steps toward the targeted milestone, while others are additional skills that are independent of the milestones, but contribute to the overall development of the targeted domain. Also, VB-MAPP task analysis section contains a tracking system that can allow for the easy identification of which skills have been acquired.

Placement and IEP Goals – Suggestions for programming are presented for each of the 170 Milestones. This section describes how to analyze a child’s VB-MAPP in order to establish priorities and the most effective intervention program. For example, once a child reaches a specific Milestone, what’s next? The focus is on establishing a balance among all the skills, establishing their functional use in the natural environment, promoting generative and spontaneous usage of the skills, and verbal and social integration with other children. In addition, a variety of potential IEP goals are presented for each section, at each developmental level.

This newer assessment tool has many advantages over the ABLLS.  Some of the things that I like better about the VB-MAPP include: 
  • Skills as well as barriers are assessed; 
  • The tool was field tested with over 150 typical children and dozens of children with autism; 
  • There are three clear levels in the MAPP so you can gauge the skills of a child with autism with age ranges of typically developing children; 
  • Once the VB-MAPP is completed, the boxes can be added up to obtain a score (making progress more objective);
  • Provides clear mastery criteria for each skill (i.e., array of 6 for 40 different objects)
  • Teachers who use the VB-MAPP are more likely to develop a balanced program with emphasis on improving the child’s deficits without further splintering skills; 
  • The VB-MAPP contains a transition assessment which is helpful in making decisions about the level of inclusion or group instruction that may be appropriate; and 
  • I find the VB- MAPP to be easier to administer.

With all of these advantages over the ABLLS, there are still some limitations to the VB-MAPP that make its use in a Special Education classroom or inclusive classroom setting less than ideal.  Some of these include:
  • The requirement of an individual with a background and training in ABA, VBA and linguistic structure to administer and analyze the assessment.
  • Scoring is not as straight forward as the ABLLS. It requires the use of some subtests and transfer of scores from subtests in order to score the basic grid and might be more difficult for teachers.
  • Because it assesses Milestones, it offers a list of what would be considered by
    the author the most important skills to teach your child but does not attempt to
    be a complete list of missing skills as the ABLLS-R does.
  •  The focus on language and social skill development is an excellent feature for students with Autism and some other developmental disabilities, however, this tool cannot be used for a wide range of students with various disabilities and learning profiles.  (i.e., students with physical disabilities or complex needs)
  •  The goals for reading, writing and math are very limited (15 goals in total).
  • The VB-MAPP is really only appropriate for students in preschool, kindergarten and the early primary grades or students with severe deficits in communication and social skill development.
  • The focus on manding, tacting and echoics somewhat limits its use for students who use AAC devices and systems of communication.
  • Some targets are time sensitive and harder to test in group situations.
   Do you use the VB-MAPP in your classroom? I'd love to hear your thoughts on it!  Leave me a comment below and I will respond!  And be sure to drop by Autism Classroom News to read about Chris' views on Unique Learning Systems.

And don't forget to come back next Wednesday for our final week on Alternative Curricula!  I will be reviewing the Hawaii Early Learning Profile and Chris will be discussing some other functional curricula on the market!

Until then,

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