The Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills (ABLLS)

Introduction to ABLLS

The Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills (ABLLS) is a criterion referenced assessment tool used for evaluating the skills and abilities of individuals with autism and other developmental disorders.

The ABLLS is designed to assess and measure the language and communication, academic, self-help, and motor skills of individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. The assessment is based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), which is an evidence-based approach to teaching and reinforcing new skills.

It can be used on children aging from 0 to 12 years. The test was first published in 1998 by Partington & Sundberg and its revised version ABLLS-R was published in 2006. A level C administrator is required to administer this test. 

ABLLS Components

The ABLLS assessment consists of 544 skills that are grouped into 25 domains that measure various skills and abilities of individuals with autism and other developmental disorders. These 25 domains are further grouped into two main categories.

First includes language skills, communication skills and academic skills, and the second includes self-help, and motor skills.

The skills that come under the language and communication skills domain consists of assessment of receptive language, expressive language, social interaction, play and leisure skills, and self-help and daily living skills. The academic, self-help, and motor skills domain includes assessment of academic skills, self-help and daily living skills, and motor skills.

The ABLLS-R consists of two documents.

The ABLLS-R Protocol is used to score the child’s performance on the task items and provides 15 appendices that allow for the tracking of a variety of specific skills that are included in the assessment.

The ABLLS-R Guide provides information about the features of the ABLLS-R, how to correctly score items, and how to develop Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals and objectives that clearly define and target the learning needs of a student.

The ABLLS mostly used by educators and therapists who work with individuals with developmental issues. The assessment provides a comprehensive evaluation of a student’s skills and abilities, which can help inform the development of individualized education plans (IEPs) and treatment plans. You can also use this tool to track progress of the child on different skills and design interventions according to the progress. In my opinion what makes this tool unique is that it not only gives you assessment of the skills of the children but also helps you plan interventions, management and individualized education plans for children.

It is based on the ABA principle which focuses on the four functions of behavior, which include: escape or avoidance, attention seeking, access to tangibles or reinforcements, and instant gratification.

The ABLLS assessment aligns with these principles by providing educators and therapists with detailed information about a student’s current skill level and identifying areas for improvement. It uses principles of positive reinforcement and systematic teaching strategies to help individuals acquire new skills and behaviors.

This measure’s benefits are that it can be used by people who have basic knowledge of apl;ied behavior analysis. Also it can give a quick overview to the parents and teachers about the skills of children at a particular age.

The criticism on the test are that it has too many items of skills which are 544 and it does not have a short version. It is also not fully standardized and it assesses the skills of developmental level so it cannot account for individual differences in learning of different children.


Partington, J. W., & Sundberg, M. L. (1998). The assessment of basic language and learning skills (ABLLS): Scoring instructions and IEP development guide. Behavior Analysts, Inc.

Sundberg, M. L., & Partington, J. W. (1998). Teaching language to children with autism or other developmental disabilities. Behavior Analysts, Inc.

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