There are many ways to assess the ability level of children with a diagnosis of autism, so how do you know which one is the right one for your child?


The Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (or, VB-MAPP) is a criterion-referenced assessment tool, curriculum guide, and skill tracking system that is designed for children with autism, and other individuals who demonstrate language delays.

Not only does this assessment provide an indication of the level of language, social skills, and identify any delays in their development, but allows a BCBA to assess the learning style of the child in order to develop an appropriate curriculum and track progress throughout their learning.



Manding is one of the first forms of communication naturally acquired. Observed as early as birth, “mand” is a derivative of demand, much like how a baby cries for food or comfort from their mother.

But how can you transition your child’s behavior from crying and pointing to teaching them how to request what they need?

Using VB-MAPP, our goal regarding mand is to first get the child to verbally start with one word ma

nds. Often the first words we teach are “Help” and “Open” as these apply to more instances than one may realize and knowing how to tell someone your wants and needs is HUGE! We develop the full question and pleasantries over time because it’s easier to teach the other words later as to not confuse the child.

A way to reinforce new mands at home is by not giving in to the primordial scream and have the child “use their words” to ask for what they want. Since mands occur when there is a motivating operation for something, the reinforcement is the acquisition of that thing directly related to that MO.



Ever wonder why when you look up in the sky and see an airplane, a bird, or the moon you can’t help but to talk about it?

Tacting, or labeling, is the naming or identifying objects, actions or events and is one of the natural ways we learn to communicate about our environment and the things within it. Not only does tacting help the individual learn how to identify the item itself, but by breaking the object down into types and parts the child understands how it relates to the world around it.

A way to reinforce and build vocabulary is to read a book with your child and have them point to things in the picture or ask them questions about what they see and identify them.



A child will start to use language to communicate their wants, needs, and ideas by stringing together sounds and words in novel ways. But how does a child learn these words to begin with?

Echoic is a verbal operant that is present when a person verbally repeats what another person says. As a very normal part of early language development, if you ask a child if they want ice cream, instead of saying “yes” they will normally just repeat the last word of the question, which in this case is “ice cream”. This is because children may engage in very high rates of echolalia during language training because it is unclear which vocalizations produced by an instructor should be echoed.

For example, if someone asks your child “how old are you?”, don’t say “say 3”; just say “three” so they only repeat back “three”.



How we learn language is more complicated than you think.

More than just knowing your ABC’s and the sounds that go along with it, learning a language is just as much about the meaning of the word and its contextual use as how to say the word itself.

When it comes to VB-MAPP, understanding receptive language is taught by following the directions provided by another person. For an example, let’s use bubbles.

Someone can be instructed to:
– blow bubbles
– pop the bubble
– point to the biggest bubble

By learning the context of what an object does, an individual learns not only receptive discrimination (aka being able to identify a specific object among many) but compliance skills (or following instructions out of context).



Most of what we learn in life, whether it’s in school or just building relationships, revolves around the give and take of the “who, what, why, when, where” questions. From meeting new friends to answering a text message, holding conversations is an important part of developing one’s intraverbal skills.

An intraverbal is behavior that is controlled by other verbal behavior (aka. using words and sentences that are in response to other words and sentences).

An easy example is call and response songs such as “Old McDonald”. Aside from the E, I, E, I, O’s, when the caller sings “and on this farm we have a cow” the individual is cued to respond with the sound the cow makes with a “moo moo here, and a moo moo there”.

Fill in the blank pairings is another good way to practice intraverbal skills.

For example:
Milk & (Cookies)
Peanut Butter & (Jelly)
Batman & (Robin)

While mand, tact, echoic, and receptive are the building blocks to understanding language, honing intraverbal responses allows us to interact with the world around us and all the people in it.


Learning to learn is difficult, but with the right support, anything is possible!