What are Assessments?

Assessments are procedures including testing, checklists, and interviews, that aid in gathering information related to identifying an individuals strengths, needs, behaviors, which can be evaluated in a variety of different ways.


“Developed by Dr. Partington, the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills - Revised (The ABLLS-R®), is an assessment tool, curriculum guide, and skills-tracking system used to help guide the instruction of language and critical learner skills for children with autism or other developmental disabilities. This practical and parent-friendly tool facilitates the identification of skills needed by the child to effectively communicate and learn from everyday experiences” (Partington Behavior Analysts, 2020). 


“The Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS) is another comprehensive criterion-referenced assessment that helps parents and educators gauge an individual’s self-help and functional living skills. It follows the same format as the ABLLS-R, but rather than assessing four developmental areas, this assessment is comprised of six protocols: Basic living skills, Home skills, Community participation skills, School skills, Vocational skills, and Independent living skills” (Partington Behavior Analysts, 2020). 

C. ​Brief Functional Analysis

According to Hanley, Iwata, and McCord (2003) a brief functional analysis “was designed to accommodate a 90-min outpatient evaluation, thereby circumventing limitations posed by the use of indirect assessment while addressing the practical limitations posed by more lengthy functional analysis.”

D. Experimental Design

Experimental design refers to the arrangement of conditions to allow for the analysis of the effect of a dependent variable (ie. the intervention) on an independent variable (i.e., the behavior) (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007).

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E. Functional Analysis (FA)

A Functional Analysis, or an FA, is an experimental analysis of the contingencies surrounding behavior. It differs from an FBA in that the Behavior Analyst systematically manipulates the antecedents and consequences utilizing analog conditions to evaluate their impact on the behavior of interest. An FA can be conducted in the natural environment or simulated environments (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007).

F. Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA)

A Functional Behavior Assessment, or an FBA, is designed to gather information about why a behavior is occurring in order to determine prevention and intervention for behavioral challenges. There are two main components to consider when conducting an FBA: indirect and direct assessment of target behaviors (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007).

G. General Ecological Assessment

According to Cooper, Heron, and Heward (2007), “an ecological approach to assessment recognizes the complex interrelationships between environment and behavior.” Ecological assessments consist of gathering information regarding to: physiological conditions, physical aspects of the environment (eg. seating arrangements, noise level, furniture configuration), interactions with others, home environment, and past reinforcement history (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007). 

H. Graphing/Visual Analysis

Graphing is an integral part of the analysis of behavior. Unlike other psychological fields, ABA uses graphic representation of data as opposed to statistical analysis to determine the effects of a given intervention. A graph allows for the visual display of data and reveals relations between a variety of variables, such as the effect of an intervention on a behavior. Visual analysis of graphs refers to the systematic approach of determining results of treatment programs or behavioral research through inspection of trends, variability, and level across different environmental conditions (Cooper, Heron, and Heward, 2007).

I. Measurement

In order to determine the effects of an intervention, it is necessary to measure its impact on the targeted behavior(s). Baer, Wolf, and Risley (1968) identified “reliable quantification” as a necessary component of applied research in behavior analysis, meaning that ethical and quality behavior analytic services can not be provided without establishing and maintaining measurement procedures.

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J. Preference Assessments

A preference assessment is conducted to determine highly preferred items or potential reinforcers to be used during treatment. There are various types of preference assessments in which stimuli are presented, alone, in pairs, or in groups and measuring an individual’s responses in relation to those stimuli (Graff and Karsten, 2012).

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The Structured Ecological Assessment Tool is a protocol developed by J. Tyler Fovel that facilitates the assessment of inclusion settings. This tool can most commonly be used to assess a classroom environment for the purpose of evaluating student placement and making recommendations specific to the classroom environment.

L. Trial-Based FA

A Trial-Based Functional Analysis is a variation of the traditional FA which lends itself well to applied settings (Rispoli et. al, 2014).


“The Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP) is a criterion-referenced assessment tool, curriculum guide, and skill tracking system that is designed for children with autism, and other individuals who demonstrate language delays. The VB-MAPP is based on B.F. Skinner’s (1957) analysis of verbal behavior, established developmental milestones, and research from the field of behavior analysis” (Sundberg, 2020). 

For those of you interested in Assessments, we encourage you to connect with other Assessments interested BDA employees to share with and learn from each other on how to apply the principles of Assessments in your current role or for special BDA related projects. 

If you have questions that your peers are unable to answer, please feel free to reach out to one of our in house experts for a quick tip!

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