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How significant a role does VB-MAPP play in treating autistic speech delays?

What is the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment (VB-MAPP)?

Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment- or VB-MAPP for short- is an assessment formulated to aid autistic children by tracking their ability levels, specifically in language development, and learning and social skills.
It is considered one of the most thorough assessment and skill tracking tool for children of determination- up until the age of 4.
The process of VB-MAPP is significant in determining the requirements of the child as compared to an average child of the same age, so as to develop a curriculum which will cater to their skill level in each particular area. It also helps identify “splinter skills”. They are essentially abilities that may be characteristic of high-functioning children, which mask other deficits. The VB-MAPP thus recognizes gaps in development, specifically the ones that may be the root cause for problem behaviors and other impairments.
With all this data collected by the assessment, therapists can establish which areas demand focus, and whether the child is ready to be integrated into a more advanced learning environment.


The development of VB-MAPP

As a technique used under the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) method of treatment, VB-MAPP is a process influenced by ABA procedures, the principles of B.F. Skinner’s behavioral analyses of language, the study of verbal behavior, and the establishment and understanding of developmental milestones.

VB-MAPP was developed by Mark Sundberg, who spent more than 30 years of research in language assessment and intervention with regards to those with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The process is a continuation of his studies and findings.

Furthermore, another author whose efforts towards the development of VB-MAPP must be credited is Barbara Esch. A speech and language pathologist, she was the one who added an assessment of speech sounds, complete with a guide on developmental progression, termed as the Early Echoic Skills Assessment (or EESA, for short).


How does it work?

The VB-MAPP is comprised of five stages:

  • The Milestones Assessment

This assessment provides the healthcare professional with a representative sample of the child’s current verbal abilities and relevant skills. This can include information on the capability to answer questions, requesting, labeling, linguistic articulation, motor imitation, and repeating or echoing, their performance in independent and social play, early academics and group settings, and their visual perception. It takes into consideration 170 foundational milestones for social, linguistic and learning developments.

It is applied at 3 levels, in accordance with various age groups:

  • Level 1: Catering to children up to 18 months old, the child is tested at this stage for Mand, Tact, Listener Responding, Visual Perceptual Skills and Matching-to-Sample, Independent Play, Social Behavior and Social Play, Motor Imitation, Echoic, Spontaneous Vocal Behavior.
  • Level 2: This phase takes the assessment further by adding Listener Responding by Function Feature and Class, Intraverbal, Classroom Routines, and Group Skills, Linguistic Structure. It caters to the ages of 18 months to 30 months.
  • Level 3: For children who are 30 months old to 4 years old, this level builds on the aforementioned stages by including Reading, Writing, and Math.
  • The Barriers Assessment

It identifies about 24 different obstacles in the development of language and learning skills, commonly found in children with developmental disabilities, including Autism Spectrum Disorder. Its focus is to recognize problems that may hinder the enhancement of day-to-day functioning abilities.

  • The Transitions Assessment

With the purpose of determining whether or not a child is making enough progress to be placed in an advanced learning setting, this assessment guides professionals on the educational requirements of the child. It focuses on 18 different areas for assessment, helping the IEP team make informed decisions on how best to proceed with the child’s relevant needs.

  • Task Analysis and Skills Tracking

A checklist is formulated, with a breakdown of an estimated 900 existing developmental milestones, particularly language and learning skills, so as to specify a curriculum for daily activities and focused content that would be taught.

  • Placement and IEP Goals
    Using the data provided by the aforementioned processes, the therapist finally considers the information on the child and B.F. Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior while establishing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and relevant outcomes and objectives. The goals are related to placement recommendations, curriculum priorities and proposals to establish intervention.

How does it help?

According to researchers, VB-MAPP is one of the most comprehensive methods to assess and track verbal development. It is one of the few tools that focus on the functional analysis of language, acknowledged in particular for including the feature of mand assessment.

It makes use of objective examination; unlike some other assessment tools that compare students with each other, providing a more subjective approach. It identifies the progress of the child over time, and traces deficits and problem areas, connecting them to any consequent issues. Moreover, it recognizes the baseline level of the child’s verbal abilities and relevant skills.

It is a thorough assessment that establishes the gaps in development, so aptly that it can help give clinicians a clear picture with regards to the deficits faces by the child. With this assessment, it is easier for the professional to decide a plan best suited for the progress of the child’s development in problem areas.

It is a method of gauging the child’s abilities, so as to guide professionals on how to proceed in aiding them in areas of language skills and social behaviors, like communication difficulties and speech delays.

Is it effective in curbing speech delays?

VB-MAPP is a scientifically sound assessment tool. Its objective measurement criteria not only provides comprehensive and accurate results, but has also established it as a useful tool for both research and treatment. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that it is an assessment widely used in inclusion centers and ABA therapy centers, such as Small Steps Big Dreams in Dubai.

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