What is an ABA Assessment?
The first step when starting ABA services is having an assessment to determine which skills are currently in the learner’s repertoire. This is critical to creating a comprehensive treatment plan for the learner and deciding age-appropriate targets to teach during ABA sessions. These assessments are conducted every six months to ensure that the learner is making progress, their repertoire is reflected appropriately, and to determine the treatment plan for the next period. In order to ensure that we are targeting all aspects of the learner’s repertoire, the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) will take a couple of hours with the learner to conduct multiple assessments.
The PEAK Assessment
At BCOTB, we use the Promoting Emergence of Advanced Knowledge (PEAK) for our learners. There are four modules in this assessment: Direct Training, Generalization, Transformation, and Equivalence. The results of Direct Training and Generalization module provide the learner with a factor score which can be used to compare with the age-normative score of peers of the same age. This assessment can show skill deficits, skills that they should have acquired at this age. This factor score is crucial in prioritizing skills and seeing where programming should be implemented in order to achieve age-normative scores.
Essential For Living Assessment
Another assessment we use is the Essential for Living assessment. This assessment analyzes the communication, behavior, and functional living skills of the learner. The assessment is conducted through observation of the learner and from parent report. The Essential for Living assessment contains different areas such as toileting, dressing, feeding, following safety routines, requesting items, following listener responding directions, and more. The skills are then categorized into “must have skills,” “should have skills,” “good to have skills”, and “nice to have skills.” From the results, we can see what is essential to teach the learner in order for them to be successful.
During the assessment, maladaptive behaviors (or problem behaviors) are tracked and recorded. Data is taken on these behaviors in regards to what it looked like, what happened before the behavior occurred, and what happened immediately following the behavior. For example, if the learner begins to cry when he is denied access to a car, we would implement the reduction strategy of providing minimal attention and continuing with the session. We would not provide the car. The result of recording and analyzing behavior data is that a program specifically targeted to reduce the behavior can be implemented. In the previous example, we could implement a program specifically for denying access, tolerating “no.” We have programs to target behaviors by their function and can create a behavior reduction plan from this data. This plan will include the behaviors, strategies to prevent them, and what to do if the behavior occurs. Assessments of behavior would add to the comprehensive treatment plan as future programming would include behavior reduction goals.
Assessing A Learner’s Communication Skills
The Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) will also conduct assessments of the learner’s communication skills. The BCBA will contrive situations in order to see how the learner requests for items. For example, the BCBA may notice that the child is drawn to the bouncy ball and hold the item until the child asks for it. From these contrived trials, the BCBA is able to determine which communication strategy to strengthen the behavior should be used. If the learner does not use vocals to communicate, their current repertoire of requesting wants and needs will be tested. This can be helpful in determining if another form of communication such as Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), sign language, or Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device would be right for the learner. The assessment will also include testing to see if the learner responds to their name when provided from a variety of distances or with varying distractions. If the learner does not make eye contact when their name is called, the learner would benefit from this program. Communication skills will also be evaluated with other peers and therapists to strengthen their social skills. If the learner is unable to hold a conversation, respond to small-talk, or respond appropriately from basic greetings, a social skills program should be targeted.
The functionality and independence of the learner playing with items will also be measured. If the learner lines up cars, but does not roll it down the car ramp, they may benefit from learning play skills. The BCBA will then determine which program would be best to teach these play skills and what strategy should be used based off the observation.
The ABA assessment will also evaluate the learner’s ability to follow safety skills. If the learner wanders off or begins to cry when told to “Wait here,” they may benefit from a waiting in location program. The learner’s response to “Wait,” “Stop,” “Come back,” will also be assessed to ensure basic safety commands can be followed.
After the ABA assessment, the findings will be discussed with the parent to receive further input. Our team will begin to create and formulate the treatment plan for their ABA therapy services. The BCBA will create the comprehensive goals for communication, social skills, skill acquisition, behavior reduction, independent functioning, daily living skills, and play skills. There will be goals for future parent training based on parent report, input, and observation of skills.
In sum, there are many parts to this process to ensure that the learner’s needs and repertoire are accurately depicted. The assessment is critical in determining the next steps to take and how those steps, big or small, are taken. Your BCBA would be happy to walk you through each aspect of the process and the results.
If you would like to discuss the ABA assessment process or schedule an assessment for your child, please contact us at (813) 814-2000. We look forward to helping you through this process!