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The Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale and Special Needs Students

written by: Mayflor Markusic • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 2/14/2012

Psychologists have found that the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale is an effective assessment tool for identifying various special needs of children. It is usually administered in clinical settings, but today teachers can utilize the third edition.

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    What is the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale?

    The Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale or VABS is one of the various assessment tools that can be used to help diagnose and evaluate the special needs of students. The focus of this particular test is the measurement of the adaptive behaviors, including the ability to cope with environmental changes, to learn new everyday skills and to demonstrate independence.

    Adaptive behavior, according to Eugene Edgar Doll, a pioneer in psychology, is multidimensional and reflects the individual’s personal and social skills as he interacts with his environment. Thus, three social research scientists, Sara Sparrow, David Balla, and Domenic Cicchetti developed the VABS.

    This is one of many assessment tools available for special needs students. For more of a basic understanding read this overview on special needs students assessment tools and tests.

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    Purpose of the test

    The primary purpose of the VABS is to assess the social abilities of an individual, whose age ranges from preschool to 18 years old. The results reliably reveal crucial information for diagnosing various disabilities, including autism, Asperger syndrome, mental retardation, and speech impairment.

    Since adaptive behavior is a composite of various dimensions, the test measures five domains. These are the Communication, Daily Living Skills, Socialization, Motor Skills, and Maladaptive Behavior domains.

    · The Communication Domain evaluates the receptive, expressive, and written communication skills of the child.

    · The Daily Living Skills Domain measures personal behavior as well as domestic and community interaction skills.

    · The Socialization Domain covers play and leisure time, interpersonal relationships, and various coping skills.

    · The Motor Skills Domain measures both gross and fine motor skills.

    The first four domains are key parts of the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale. But the last domain, Maladaptive Behavior, is an optional part of the assessment test. It is used when measuring obvious undesirable behaviors. For children who are younger than 6 years old, a different version of the VABS is used.

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    Administration of the test

    This assessment tool is in the form of a questionnaire and it is administered in a semi-structured interview.

    Recognizing the need for flexibility of assessment tools, the updated forms of the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale comes in three editions, the Survey Form, the Expanded Form, and the Classroom Edition.

    · Survey Form – This is the edition that is closest in content to the original version of VABS that was published in 1984 by the American Guidance Services. It has 297 items distributed over the four domains. The child’s parent or primary caregiver answers the items, usually within 20 minutes to an hour.

    · Expanded Form – This edition is most useful to teachers and psychologists who are planning the IEP of the special child. With 280 questions added to the first 297 questions of the survey form for a total of 577 items, the results will provide a comprehensive evaluation of the special child’s needs. The results are also used to put together any treatment or rehabilitative program. This edition can be completed within 60 to 90 minutes.

    · Classroom Edition – This edition is composed of 244 items that evaluates a child’s adaptive behavior inside the classroom. The teacher answers the questions but only a qualified professional can interpret the scores.

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    Limitations of the test

    Due to the nature of its administration, in which adult observers, such as the parent and the teacher, answer the items, this assessment test is used to assess the adaptive behaviors only of individuals who are 18 years old and younger. In cases of individuals who are older and whose social functioning abilities have already been identified as below developmental expectations, the VABS can be utilized.

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    Standardization

    The Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale has been nationally standardized using respondents who were stratified according to factors that could significantly influenced the answers to the items, such as gender, age, race, geographical region, size of community, and parental education. For the interpretation of scores, the procedure was developed by Angoff and Robertson and similar to that of the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children, in which there are score equivalents for the raw scores in each domain, percentile ranks, age equivalents, adaptive levels, and maladaptive levels.