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How to Start an ABA Home Schooling Program and Conduct a Student Assessment

aba home schooling programBeware of anyone trying to sell you a one-size-fits-all ABA home schooling program. Each child has his own unique social, communication and behavioral challenges, and each child will follow his own development progress and pace. Successful ABA outcomes are produced by individualized intervention programs with individual assessments and goals, as well as monitoring and data collection to inform ongoing modifications to the treatment program.

This article walks you through the first two steps to starting your child on an ABA learning path:

  1. Assessing your child/student’s current skills and deficits (areas that need improvement) using ABA assessment tools
  2. Identifying any barriers to learning
    1. Behavioral problems
    2. Learning “gaps”

Conducting a thorough assessment process is important as the results inform not only the ABA program but also how to respond to barriers to learning while using ABA modalities. Treatments that are not developed from the results of ABA functional assessments have been shown to be less effective. Thus, aligning the results with the best ABA treatment modalities is key to producing positive learning outcomes. Behavior Analysts are trained in how to develop the optimal programs based on assessment results.

Step 1:  Assess Student’s Current Skills and Deficits

To begin a Home Schooling Program first an assessment of current skills and deficits (areas that need improvement) should be completed.  There are several assessments available, but make sure that the tool that is used assesses several learning domains:

The following ABA assessment tools are widely used by ABA experts, as well as teachers and parents. The first three questionnaires test skill mastery and deficits.

  • The Assessment of Basic Language Skills- Revised (ABBLS-R® )
    • An assessment tool for pre-academics of 544 skills across 25 skill domains (social interaction, language, adaptive skills, self-help, academic, motor skills etc.).
  • The Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP ®)
    • A 5-part assessment tool for school program placement that identifies areas of deficits and mastery in 5 areas (Milestones, Barriers, Behaviors, Transitions, Task Analysis and Skills Tracking etc.)
  • Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, Third Edition (Vineland™-III)
    • A comprehensive assessment tool that identifies areas of mastery or deficits across 5 domains (Communication, Daily Living Skills, Socialization, Motor Skills, and Maladaptive Behaviors) with 14 subdomains.
  • Functional Analysis Screening Tool (FAST) – A 16-item questionnaire assessing antecedent and consequence events that could indicate problem behavior.
  • Motivation Assessment Scale (MAS) II – A 51-item questionnaire designed to identify the motivation or reinforcement behind problematic behavior.

Please consult with a Behavior Analyst for Home Schooling

The last two assessments will help you identify where barriers or potential difficulties might arise when using a home schooling program and their motivations.  While children with ASD are more apt to display problematic behaviors that interfere with them learning, this is a common barrier seen in all children with or without disabilities.  Some examples of problematic behaviors are: the child can only sit for 5 minutes, displays tantrum-behavior, hides under desks, makes disruptive noises, engages in hitting of others, and so forth.  If a child/student displays problematic behaviors, it is in the best interest of the child to seek additional support from a Behavior Analyst to complete a Functional Behavior Assessment. Once you have identified the underlying “reasons”of a problem behavior, you can develop preventive strategies, positive/negative reinforcements and adaptive behavior strategies.

While it may be tempting to creative and take what you like best from ABA assessment practices and invent your own program, treatments based on ABA functional assessments have been shown to be more efficient and thus successful. The level and quality of training is also strongly correlated with positive learning outcomes. Even in clinical settings, inadequate training has resulted in ineffective implementation and poor student outcomes. At this critical stage, you may want to bring in an Certified Behavior Analyst to ensure your home-based program reflects the best known practices of clinical settings. These steps can help you reduce costs and time while increasing efficiency and ABA learner outcomes.

Other related articles

  1. Understand Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and the ABA Modalities Used in Home Schooling
  2. Set Up the Environment for Home Schooling with ABA


Hansford, A., Zilber, I., LaRue, R. H., & Weiss, M. J. (2010). Practical issues in effective behavioral intervention development. The Behavior Analyst Today11(1), 59.