The VB-MAPP: An Overview

For parents coming upon autism therapy for the first time, the alphabet soup of acronyms can be disorienting. The VB-MAPP is one such acronym that plays a crucial role in ABA therapy, which is why we’ve put together this brief overview to help answer some common questions.

VB-MAPP stands for Verbal Behavior Milestones and Placement Program. It’s one of the most comprehensive assessment and skill-tracking tools our field has for skills in the 0- to 48-month old level, and it helps us develop an appropriate curriculum that is tailored for that child’s specific needs.


What is the VB-MAPP?

The VB-MAPP consists of five components:

-The milestones assessment provides a representative sample of a child’s existing verbal and related skills, including requesting, labeling, answering questions, echoing, listening, motor imitation, visual perception, linguistic structuring, independent play, social play, group/classroom skills and early academics.

-The barriers assessment analyzes 24 common learning and language acquisition barriers typically faced by children with autism or other developmental disabilities.

-The transitions assessment contains 18 assessment areas to help identify whether a child is making meaningful progress and has acquired the necessary skills for learning in a less restrictive educational environment.  This can help the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team make informed decisions and set priorities to help meet the child’s educational needs.

-The task analysis and skills tracking provides a further breakdown of approximately 900 ongoing learning and language skills to help further target the specific content that will be taught.

-Finally, placement and IEP goals provide specific direction and placement recommendations based on the information obtained from the four other components of the VB-MAPP.


How is the VB-MAPP used?

The VB-MAPP allows us to assess the child’s abilities in such key areas as language, social, pre-academics and group skills, so that we can determine the level of instruction the child needs in each skill area. Specifically, we look to identify whether the child has reached a developmental level typical for a four-year old child. If we can determine whether the child has reached this developmental benchmark, we can assess whether the child may be ready for more advanced learning environments.

Likewise, the VB-MAPP helps us identify gaps in the child’s development that might be a potential source of problems. Kids often have what we call “splinter skills,” meaning that a child’s high functioning in one area may actually mask deficits in other areas. If the child’s learning focuses only on the areas they perform well in, without addressing the areas they struggle in, these deficits will eventually become problem areas that will be more difficult to correct as time goes on.


How is the VB-MAPP administered?

Completing the assessment typically takes between four to ten hours, depending on the child, the level of the skills or problem areas the child has, and the child’s ability to interact with the therapist administering the test.

The assessment can be done in the clinic, home, school or community setting. While the VB-MAPP can include group monitoring, much of the assessment is typically conducted one-on-one in a closed environment, allowing the therapist to control the surroundings. Once the assessment is completed, the therapist will recommend interventions based on the child’s functional levels.

The VB-MAPP is designed to be done up to four times per year; at Positive Behavioral Connections, we typically try to update the Milestones and Barriers Assessments every three to four months in order to ensure we continually understand the progress your child makes on an ongoing basis.  We are also continually monitoring skills and updating each child’s program from the Task Analysis.  These subsequent assessments are usually incorporated into your child’s ongoing ABA program.

Of course, the VB-MAPP is just one tool that we use. While it’s a great starting point and a sound, objective measure of your child’s skill sets, it shouldn’t replace functional behavior assessments or a focus on the specific needs of your family. For instance, it doesn’t address daily living or functional skills directly, so by itself it won’t help us to teach your child to eat at a restaurant, sit through church or become toilet trained. Other tools must be used to support those skills.  In short, the VB-MAPP points us in the right direction toward developing and implementing the therapy program that’s appropriate for your child.


Contact us today to learn more about the VB-MAPP or to schedule an assessment for your child. We’re here to help!



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