Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

Teaching Children with Autism, continued

Determine what the child already knows. Typically, as a starting point, a skilled instructor-therapist will assess the child’s progress across a wide variety of developmental areas, using a curriculum such as the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills – Revised (ABLLS-R), the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP), the Carolina Curriculum, The Hawaii Early Learning Profile (HELP), or Leaf and McEachin’s curriculum from their book, A Work in Progress, supplemented by tools such as McKinnon and Krempa’s Social Skills Checklists, the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, and Partington’s The Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS). For children of school age, you can also supplement your assessment with reference to a Kindergarten or grade school curriculum such as those available through the Ontario Government’s Ministry of Education website (

I expect that the ABLLS-R has been the most widely used guide to program development, although that may be changing, with the fairly recent super-convenient availability of the VB-MAPP as an iPad app. Barriers to learning, which should be addressed early on, can be assessed using the VB-MAPP, or some alternative such as Ward’s Inventory of Good Learner Repertoires.

The ABLLS-R assesses twenty-four different aspects of the child’s development. The first of these is Cooperation and Reinforcer Effectiveness. In order for instruction to be efficient, you have to be able to elicit at least a minimum amount of cooperation from the child. That is known as establishing instructional control. Essentially, establishing instructional control begins with showing the child that you are the one who has control over the reinforcers, and then proceeds with showing him that you are fun, that you can be trusted to follow through on whatever you tell him, and that following your instructions is the best way for him to get what he wants. Robert Schramm has a paper on “The Seven Steps to Earning Instructional Control with Your Child,” which you can access on his website,

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