As a clinician myself, I totally get that you are busy with day-to-day clinical responsibilities. You have many tasks to juggle, data to analyze, and clients to go and see. I know not all of you share my passion for assessments, and many of you are not the ones who make decisions around which assessments your organization purchases and adopts into your clinical framework. However, this should not stop you from staying up to date with the best assessments out there for your clients. So, I’ve done you a favor; I created something similar to a “highlight reel”, or inventory, of the best assessments out there.
When selecting assessments, I encourage you to make decisions using the four levels of measurement we use to evaluate learner progress in conjunction with the framework provided by the Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (BCHOE, 2021).
As a refresher, when selecting assessments, it is important to:
- Choose assessments that measure skills and behavioral repertoires you are targeting for intervention with your client
- Both under-evaluating and over-evaluating your learners is problematic. Only assess behavioral repertoires (and those related) targeted for intervention
- Use a combination of both norm-referenced and criterion-referenced assessments
- Avoid selecting only one or the other
- Select assessments that provide the breadth and depth needed for meeting third-party funding requirements, progress monitoring, and program design.
The balance: It can be tempting to select assessments that are easy to implement and score at the cost of more comprehensive evaluation of a learner’s progress or an easier translation from assessment to practice.
In Support of Criterion-Referenced Assessments
Often, clinicians lean toward implementing assessments during progress reporting periods (or as required by third-party funders). This can result in selecting predominantly norm-referenced assessments, indirect assessments, and/or those that evaluate and report on skills across repertoires, rather than within.
There are many benefits to selecting and implementing criterion-referenced assessments.
- Time-Saving: Comprehensive criterion-referenced assessments position clinicians for a much easier and more efficient transition from assessment to practice.
- Thoroughness: When selecting comprehensive criterion-referenced assessments, clinicians lessen the chance of “missing” skills as it often occurs when using more global, less focused evaluations of learner progress. It allows clinicians to use data to assist them in treatment planning, specifically in the selection and development of curriculum content necessary to address skill strengths and deficits.
- Progress monitoring: Criterion-referenced assessments (such as the AFLS, ABLLS-R, and Family Self-Assessment) provide clinicians with content depth and scoring that demonstrates progress for those assessed, even when progress occurs at a slower rate.
Table 1. Cross-walk of Assessment types and applications
When creating your assessment framework and thinking about which criterion-referenced assessments to include, it is important to be mindful to select assessments that allow you to evaluate progress over time. This means selecting assessments with content that evaluates your learner as they progress and offer flexibility to easily assess additional and/or related skills. Normative assessments do this by design. For example, the Vineland-3 contains skills relevant for ages 2-adulthood. As a learner progresses, this assessment captures and assesses the progress.
Criterion-referenced assessments, however, do not often account for significant change across time and focus instead on a specific skill grouping (i.e., Inventory of Good Learner Repertoires) and/or age range (VB-MAPP). The ABLLS-R and AFLS are the only two criterion-referenced assessments that include content breadth and depth allowing for a variety of learners’ progress to be evaluated across time, as they grow, learn, change, and require more functional living skills. As you look through my assessment inventory, take this into consideration.
Herein lies the main event. I’ve compiled a list of the best assessments out there for use in ABA programs. As assessors, it is critical that we select assessments that include updated norms, meet standards for reliability and validity, that are clinically relevant, and that are culturally relevant (BHCOE, 2021). As such, this inventory includes assessments that are research-based, norm or criterion-referenced, and are appropriate to assess a wide variety of skill areas and age groups.
Kristin Smith, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA
CentralReach, Instructional Designer
Kristin Smith, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA is a Licensed Behavior Analyst, and Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She began her career in the field of behavior analysis in 2002 and received a master’s degree in Special Education from the University of Washington. Kristin has experience implementing and designing intervention programs across a variety of contexts, with learners ranging in age from 18 months to 40 years. She works with a wide variety of learners, including, but not limited to those with autism, chromosomal deletions, cognitive impairments, learning disabilities, social-emotional and/or behavioral problems, significant challenging behavior, blindness, and children with multiple disabilities. Her areas of expertise include Precision Teaching, instructional design, assessment, and data analysis.