VB-MAPP Assessment: An Overview

This is a video post (click above to see the accompanying videos for this post) and quick overview of the VB -MAPP assessment tool. 
VB- MAPP stands for Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program, and it was developed by Dr Sundberg, one of the creators of the ABLLS assessment tool (the newer version, the ABLLS-R, was authored by Dr. Partington).

I already have a post about the ABLLS- R, which is mainly what I have used over the years. I am newer to the VB MAPP but I already really like it. Most ABA professionals use the VB -MAPP or ABLLS-R assessments, so whether you are a parent or a professional it’s good to have some knowledge of these assessment tools.

I do have some reasons why I like the VB -MAPP over the ABLLS-R. Mainly the VB- MAPP can be MUCH quicker to administer (how does 1 day sound?) than the ABLLS-R. 
 I also love the Barriers Assessment in the VB-MAPP, and having a focus on developmental milestones because then I can say to a parent “Your child cannot perform XYZ skill, which a typical child would be able to do by age 18 months”. Being able to talk about age equivalents can be very helpful for parents who may know their child is delayed, but don’t really have a sense of the depth or severity of delay.

The VB -MAPP can be purchased as just the protocol or you can purchase the protocol and guide together. I would really recommend buying both, because the guide is very helpful. This isn’t one of those assessments that you want to purchase and then just implement. Reading the guide will help you assess more accurately, as well as be able to discuss the results clearly and thoroughly with the family. Assessment methods can include observation (timed or not) or direct testing. The VB- MAPP will tell you which method to use depending on what skill you are assessing

The focus of the VB MAPP assessment is on Verbal Behavior  and developmental milestones of typically developing children. The assessment also covers academics, social/play, motor skills, etc.
In my opinion, this assessment tool is more for professionals than parents. You really need a solid understanding of Verbal Behavior, verbal operants, and like any assessment tool, you need an understanding of gaining instructional control  and pairing with a child.

Pairing and instructional control are hugely important when assessing anyone. As the assessor, you often are walking into a situation where you don’t know the individual, and have to quickly establish a good rapport so you can begin your assessment. The parents can help greatly with this process, as they can give you information about what the child finds reinforcing, what kind of games/toys they like, what time of day are they best able to attend, etc. This is also why it can be so helpful to conduct a record review, observation, and parent interview before doing the actual assessment. I often find that the assessment is an under-representation of what the individual can do, either due to problem behaviors during assessment or the individual being uncomfortable interacting with strangers.

 You should be reinforcing and fun during an assessment, but be careful with prompting. Depending on the skill you are assessing using the VB- MAPP prompting may be allowed, or it might not. The goal of assessment isn’t to teach, it’s to determine the level of functioning. So you shouldn’t be using excessive prompting. Remember: If you can’t praise the performance you can always reinforce effort (“You are trying so hard!”)

The VB -MAPP covers 170 milestones, and has 3 main sections: Milestones assessment, Barrier assessment, and Transitions assessment. The best plan is to complete all 3, in order to gain a comprehensive view of current functioning level. 

- The Milestones assessment has 3 developmental levels: from 0-18 mo (Level 1), 18-30 mo, (Level 2), 30-48 mo (Level 3). Level 1 is typically a very young child, nonverbal, who has never received treatment/intensive therapy before. The parent interview and observation will give you a good idea of which level to start assessing on. It will become clear pretty quickly if you need to move down a level, as the child will be unable or unwilling to answer your questions, or participate in activities. You could also start to see many problem behaviors (escape behaviors) if you are starting at a level too difficult for the child. Level 2 would be an intermediate level, and it adds more domains to cover such as Intraverbals (link). Obviously, a non verbal child doesn’t need to be assessed on Intraverbals, so you can see how the difficulty is increasing as the levels go up.  Level 3, which would be an advanced learner or possibly an older, higher functioning individual, covers the most skill domains and includes more complicated skills such as academic skills and classroom routines. This applies to all the levels but particularly for level 3: you will likely need to observe the child in the classroom or in a social setting to assess certain parts of the VB -MAPP. If it isn’t possible to observe the child at school (they don’t always let ABA professionals inside) then indicate a score of “0” since you weren’t able to assess the skill, or, you can try to gain the information you need from teacher interview.

-The Barriers assessment is probably my favorite feature of the VB- MAPP. This tool answers the question: What issues are present that could impede learning and/or progress? This is so helpful as the person responsible for creating the treatment plan, and I use this along with parent concerns to create the initial behavior plan. During the assessment, you could see all kinds of lovely problem behaviors and this information would go directly onto the Barriers assessment.

-The Transitions assessment can help identify if the child is school ready, and what the ideal school setting would be for that child. Can they attend within a group? How sociable are they with peers? Do they exhibit challenging problem behaviors? All of this will help determine what kind of classroom placement a child would need, and I highly recommend sharing this information with the family and with the teachers. For school age clients, this information can be used to help develop the IEP.

*For more information: 
VB MAPP website (Dr. Sundberg’s website) http://www.avbpress.com/vbmapp-set.html


  1. Tameika. Just want to say thanks for all of this useful information. I have been inadvertently following you for a while and really appreciate the clarity with which you present the information.

    1. Hi there,

      Thank you, Im glad you like the blog! :-)


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