The Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP) is a developmental test that was developed by Mark Sundberg. The VB-MAPP consists of five parts: milestones, barriers, transitions, Task-Analysis and skill tracking, and placement and IEP goals. The milestones, barriers, and transitions are the most commonly used when first assessing an individual.
The milestones assessment lists 170 different developmental milestones that occur between the ages of 0-48 months in typically developing peers. Each milestone is placed into one of 18 categories: mand, tact, intraverbal, listener responding, visual perception/matching to sample, independent play, social, echoic, vocal, imitation, listener responding by feature function class, intraverbal, group skills, linguistic, reading, writing, and math. These skills are ranked into three different leves. Level 1 are skills that are typically developed between 0-18 months, level 2 skills develop between 18-30 months, and level 3 skills between 30-48 months. Often individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other developmental disabilities don’t learn skills sequentially. Meaning that an individual might have very few skills in level 1 but might have several skills mastered in level 3. The milestones assessment allows the analyst to see where the gaps in the individual’s learning history might be and tells us what areas need to be targeted. By filling in these gaps, the individual is then able to learn more complex skills. In the milestones portion, the goal is to have the individual meet all the milestones in the assessment.
The barriers portion of the assessment lists 24 different “barriers” to learning. These barriers are behaviors that would inhibit the individual’s ability to learn. The barriers include problem behaviors, instructional control, defective mand, defective tact, defective echoic, defective imitation, defective visual performance, defective listener responding, defective intraverbal, defective social skills, prompt dependent, scrolling, defective scanning, defective conditional discrimination, failure to generalize, weak motivators, response requirement weakens MO, reinforcer dependent, self-stimulation, defective articulation, obsessive compulsive behavior, hyperactive behavior, failure to make eye contact, and sensory defensiveness. In the barriers portion the goal is to decrease the individual’s score in each of these categories making fewer barriers to the individual’s ability to learn.
The transitions portion of the assessment is a list of 18 different skills that assess whether the individual is able to function in a less restrictive educational environment. The skills include the milestone score, barriers score, negative behaviors and instructional control, classroom routines and group skills, social skills and social play, independent academic work, generalization, range of reinforcers, rate of skill acquisitions, retention of new skills, natural environment learning, transfer without training, adaptability to change, spontaneous behaviors, self-directed leisure time, general self-help, toileting skills, and eating skills. These skills are necessary for the individual to be self-sufficient in a general education classroom.
After the assessment is complete the analyst will then look at three components and use it as a guide for building programming. The analyst will most likely choose some skills from the milestones that need to be increased as well as creating programming to target the most intrusive barriers to learning that need to be decreased. The assessment will usually be conducted every 6-12 months as the individual develops more skills. This depends on how quickly the individual is acquiring skills. Once the individual has decreased most significant behaviors and has acquired a large portion of the milestones, the transitions will then be the primary guide when developing targets for programming.
The VB-MAPP is traditionally used with elementary age and younger learners. It can be used with older learners with fewer skill sets, however it might be more appropriate to utilize other assessments such as the Essentials for Living (EFL) or the Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS). These assessments do target language, however also assess skills that an older individual might need more readily than the skills assessed in the VB-MAPP. For further information on the VB-MAPP or other assessments please contact your Behavior Analyst.
We all grew up learning to describe our environment by using our five senses; we were maybe taught to describe what we hear as being loud or soft, what we smell as being sweet or pungent, what we feel as being soft or rough, what we taste as being spicy or sour, and what we see by naming objects in the environment or by colors and shapes. B.F. Skinner, the father of our great science, referred to this type of language as tacting. He defined a tact as a verbal operant evoked by a nonverbal stimulus and is reinforced by general, non-specific social reinforcement. So, what exactly does that mean? It means that when we refer to something as being a “tact,” we are talking about something said that is not in response to something read or to something someone else said, and does not result in the speaker receiving a specific item or verbal response. Tacting is often referred to as labeling.
For example, let’s say that you walked into your grandmother’s kitchen after she had been baking all afternoon and you announce, “Mmm, it smells like cookies in here!” You tacting or “labeling” what you smell as smelling like cookies is a tact, provided your grandmother does not hand you a cookie. Another example of a tact is a child walks through a pet store with his dad and sees a bright blue fish, points to the fish and says, “Blue fish!” The child saw the blue fish and emitted a correct tact.
So why are tacts important? We emit tacts to try to start conversations with others, to convey that we feel sick, to be able to identify how others are feeling based on their facial expressions, to teach others about their environment, to be able to sort into categories, etc. Try going a whole day without labeling, aloud or in your head, things that you encounter in your environment. Do you think you can do it?
Marchese, N., Carr, J., & LeBlank, L. 2012. The Effects of the question “What is this?” on tact training outcomes of children with autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis; 45(3), 539-547.