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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,


  1. I have never heard of this curriculum before, but will do some more research on it. Thanks so much for sharing this information, and for doing these posts. I am a middle school teacher, and I have to come up with my own curriculum for just about every subject, so I love learning about new options for my students. I look forward to reading the rest of your posts on this topic, as well as other curricula you share.


  2. Darlene Shirley6/04/2017 4:52 pm

    Hi-I have a few questions. Do you use the BCP by VORT, for children older than 6 yrs? I will have K-2 students, next year, and I am searching for a curriculum I can purchase, personally. I'm fairly confident that I will have older students, as the year progresses. If I purchase the HELP for 3-6 yr. olds, and the BCP, for 7+ year olds, it totals close to $400;so, I am trying to not "over buy." Thanks!


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