How to use the ABLLS-R

There are a lot of assessments and materials out there that I think are valid and reliable. I have run many different types of assessments for many different aged children, and the ABLLS-R is always one that I enjoy using. This captures a picture of the whole child and also looks in depth in many domains. Not to mention, there are so many materials ready to use at The Autism Helper store!

I recently was introduced to the ABLLS-R while using the STAR program and VB-MAPP in my preschool classroom. There are ideas for teaching within the ABLLS-R and it is laid out so nicely, it is easy to use the data from assessments to write IEP goals and activities to work on within the classroom. It truly helps implementing best practices as a teacher of using data to drive instruction.

What is the ABLLS-R?

ABLLS stands for The Assessment of Basic Language & Learning Skills and the R stands for revised. This is an assessment and  curriculum guide that is most beneficial for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Using this assessment as a tool within the classroom, your home, or with clients is beneficial to always have data on hand. This assessment is easy to score and to graph once the assessments are run. This is a great set of much needed data to have in your back pocket!

Why Should I Use The ABLLS-R?

Using this tool with students and clients helps identify skills that are in need of intervention. The graph also gives a visual to professionals and families on what skills may be missing and if there are splinter skills within any domain. The data is easy to follow and makes it a wonderful tool to be used as a curriculum guide and to see which skills should be the focus of current instruction.

The ABLLS-R Protocol assesses and monitors the progress of:

  • Basic learner skills (Sections A-P)
  • Academic Skills (Sections Q-T)
  • Self-Help Skills (Sections U-X)
  • Motor Skills (Sections Y-Z)

How to Score the Data

Each skill has a maximum score that varies from one skill to the next but the maximum score in any domain will either be a 2 or a 4. For any skill with a maximum score of 2, the learner may score a 0, 1, or 2. For skills with a maximum score of 4, the child may score a 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4. The maximum score does not mean anything for the skill itself. For example, a skill with a maximum score of 4 is not a more useful or better skill than a skill with a maximum score of 2.

After running the assessments, scoring in the base assessment, and seeing where the cap was for each domain, I then go through each section and enter the data into the graph. This is not an assessment that can or should be run in one day. With all of the skills and activities that may need to be run, I use as much as a week or two to be sure we are getting accurate data. My team and I rotate who is running the assessment at any moment to be sure we’re checking for generalization. There are some domains that have skills of up to 100 or more pictures or objects. My team and I will write on the base assessment keeping track with writing down names, numbers, or tallies for those skills that we were not able to finish in one sitting. When transferring the data to a graph, be sure that each assessment dates have their own colors in order to track growth and regression. I also prefer to do it by hand, but electronic is also an option!

How can I use the assessment for lesson planning?

I get frustrated when an assessment is only used once or twice throughout the year. Yes, I know that I cannot implement full assessments without parent consent or doing a full evaluation, however, there are many teaching ideas within good assessments. Within the ABLLS-R I can look through and get ideas for teaching large group, small groups, even independent work and snack time! Assessments don’t have to be put away in a filing cabinet never to be seen until a child is due for an evaluation.

My routine when lesson planning used to feel very scattered. I have so many resources and tools both in paper copy and digital. I easily got overwhelmed and frustrated with myself when my team and I would make materials that we never ended up using! I would get sad when I planned for an awesome large group activity that we never got to. The ABLLS-R materials are a lot of time and prep in the beginning. Once the materials and binders are created, it is such a grab and go process for me that it has increased my productivity when planning.

My routine:

  • Review the unit theme and monthly academic/pre academic focus for the whole class
  • Run through the ABLLS-R materials and skills that can be used for large group activities
  • Look at materials and skills that can be worked on in 1:1 and small group work times
  • What materials can overlap into independent work
  • Which areas can we work on during functional routines?
  • After all of the materials I want to use for the next 2-3 weeks are pulled from the ABLLS-R, I fill those into my lesson planning tools. When those are filled in and activities are made based on the materials that we have, I look in my unit bins and see what else we can focus on that I already have prepped and ready to go.
  • At the end, if there are a few things we need made, we try and limit the amount so that they actually get prepped and ready to use when we need them.

Where can I get assessment materials?

This is the easy answer, at The Autism Helper Store! Everything is broken down and easy to understand. Included in the resource bundles are lists of extra materials that you may need. These materials truly are a life saver. Not only will they be used when I am running the assessment, but they are used throughout our school days in order to gain the learning opportunities to work on skills!


  1. Is there an assesment similiar to ABLS that can be used with adults on the spectrum 21plus? Are there any you can suggest?

  2. We are just starting ABLLS-R with numerous students. Is there a list of toys, supplies needed? (the the teachers pay teachers resources (we bought those already).

    • Hey Barb! In the TpT assessment kit, we include a list of the toys/supplies needed!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *