Barnes, Mellor, Rehfeldt (2014)


Implementing the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP): Teaching Assessment Techniques


Barnes, C. S., Mellor, J. R., & Rehfeldt, R. A. (2014). Implementing the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP): Teaching Assessment Techniques. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 30(1), 36–47.


  • Clarissa S. barnes
  • James R. Mellor
  • Ruth Ann Rehfeldt

Article Info

  • The Analysis of Verbal Behavior (2014)
  • Volume 30, Issue 1,
    pages 36-37

Key Words

  • BST
  • Staff Training


The Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP) is an assessment tool used with individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and other language delays (Sundberg 2008). The milestones assessment section of the VB-MAPP is used to determine an individual’s current skill level. The results of the milestones assessment can be used to identify instructional goals and objectives. The current study examined the effects of behavioral skills training (BST) on the administration of the milestones assessment by two educational professionals. The BST intervention resulted in immediate increases in performance for both participants.


This article reviews the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP), which is an assessment used to measure verbal behavior (i.e., echoic, manding, tacting, intraverbal, listener responding, and listener responding by function, feature, and class skills) and help guide individualized programming aimed at addressing skill deficits within the learner’s verbal behavior. Part of the guided individualized programming is the assessment items, which give operational definitions for the assessor to follow, allowing for better transitioning from assessing skills and deficits to implementing interventions to target specific assessment items. Additionally, the VB-MAPP tracks the progress, milestone achievements, barriers, and transitions of the learner as they progress through interventions. The Milestone Assessment is separated into 3 levels, 0 to 18 months, 18 to 30 months, and 30 to 48 months, which bases developmental milestones on those of typically functioning children. For more information the VB-MAPP …

The purpose of this study is to determine if the VB-MAPP manual and guide can effectively instruct an assessor to conduct the VB-MAPP assessment successfully and with fidelity (detailed accuracy). The authors cited previous research that demonstrated having an instruction manual specifically designed to teach a skill is more effective than a general manual. More specifically, the authors believe the VB-MAPP manual may be sufficient to teach/guide professionals with knowledge and experience verbal behavior and behavior analysis to administer the assessment. However, if it is not, then use of behavioral skills training (BST) may be more effective, making the purpose to examine if using BST is more effective in teaching VB-MAPP assessment than using a written manual alone.

The Behavior Skills Training (BST) method used consisted of 5 parts (listed in order of implementation), Instruction, Modeling, Rehearsal and feedback, Post-test, and Remedial teaching (as needed). Instruction consisted of giving instructions to a small group of participants, with 1 to 3 non-participant clinicians in the environment. Initial instruction consisted of a PowerPoint presentation (large screen display with printed handouts for participants to follow along) on the VB-MAPP, followed by descriptions and examples of the verbal operants being assessed. Then the participants were instructed on how to conduct the VB-MAPP assessment, with explanations on probing operants throughout the assessment, how to enrich the environment, how and when to implement breaks, how to effectively alternate between a work area setting and a natural environment setting, and how to implement assessment materials for different sections of the assessment.

Modeling consisted of showing video clips (with subtitles) of assessing Level 1 and Level 2 VB-MAPP milestones, an organized assessment kit, a complete pre-assessment interview, and a complete Reinforcer Assessment for Individuals with Severe Disabilities (RAISD). Rehearsal and feedback consisted of allowing participants to roleplay 3 to 5 target behaviors, with the target behaviors given by the experimenter, and materials chosen by the participant from an array of stimuli. Each roleplay was followed by feedback regarding the participant’s responding (completing VB-MAPP checklist steps correctly) and how to correct responses deemed incorrect, followed by additional roleplay practice. Checklist steps consisted of 5 pre-assessment steps, 22 Level 1 steps, and 8 Level 2 steps (Appendix). Each step was an evaluation of the assessor’s performance while conducting a VB-MAPP assessment. Examples include contriving EO’s for missing items (to elicit mands), probing visual perceptual and matching-to-sample skills throughout the assessment, and providing frequent breaks for play.

Post-test consisted of probes identical to the probes during pre-testing, with mastery criteria of 90% accuracy across 2 consecutive post-tests of both Level 1 and Level 2 of the VB-MAPP. Pre-testing required the participants to conduct VB-MAPP assessments of Level 1 and Level 2 milestones with a child. Remedial teaching was deemed necessary if the participant did not meet the 90% mastery criteria during post-test probes, consisting of additional roleplay scenarios and specific feedback on how to earn full points on steps that received no or partial points. Roleplays during modeling and feedback and during remedial teaching used other participants (learners), not children like during pre-test and post-test probes.