Using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale in Autism

The Rationale for Using VABS

As a developmental disability, autism is one of the most complex. As a medical neurological disorder, it is one of the most perplexing. As a hindrance to successful social interactions, autism is one of the devastating conditions. But it is possible to help autistic individuals to live relatively normal and independent lives. The key is early intervention. Early intervention, however, implies early detection of the presence of this type of pervasive developmental disorder. The use of the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale or VABS has been proven to be effective in the detection of autism. Specifically, the social behavioral domains that are measured in VABS will reveal scores that can easily distinguish autism from other types of disabilities, including mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and learning disabilities.

Gillham and his colleagues conducted one of the studies that proved the high discriminant validity of the VABS in year 2000. The study involved 95 children, ages 4 to 13, who suffer from a type of developmental disorder. Forty-four of these children were previously diagnosed with autism and the rest have other types of developmental disorders. The autistic group of children scored the lowest in the first three domains of VABS (Communication, Daily Living Skills, and Socialization). There are no significant differences among the children when it comes to the fourth domain, Motor Skills. And interestingly, in the fifth and optional domain of VABS, which is called Maladaptive Behaviors, the autistic group of children garnered the highest scores. The study, which was published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorder (volume 30), is one of the evidences of the ability of VABS to screen autism.

Using VABS

To use VABS in screening autism, the parent or guardian or caregiver of the child must take part in a semi-structured interview. The interview is composed of items that describe specific social behaviors of a child. The parent or caregiver will simply choose among these five answer:

  1. Habitually performs or carries out the behavior
  2. Sometimes or partially performs the behavior
  3. Never or refuses to perform the behavior
  4. The child never had the opportunity to perform that behavior
  5. The parent/caregiver is not aware if the child performs the behavior

Often, the administrator of the test will ask the parent or caregiver to give further explanations of the given answer. Then, using a computer software, a norm-referenced and age-equivalent score is produced. Very low scores are usually indicative of autism. If the child psychologist needed to corroborate the results of VABS, the other tests that can be used are the Adaptive Behavior Scale (ABS) Second edition and the Scales of Independent Behavior (SIB-R) revised edition.