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What is an ABLLS Assessment?

The ABLLS Assessment is an important tool in working with autistic and learning delayed individuals today. So, how does it work, and what exactly does it do? Join us as we explore the fundamentals of this useful tool.

Related resource: Top 25 Master’s in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Online

ABLLS Assessments: The Basics

The abbreviation ABLLS stands for Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills. As such, this assessment process is ultimately a test designed to determine language and learning capabilities and prospective capabilities in those specifically affected by autism and other, similar learning disabilities. Much of this assessment battery is accredited to and designed around the behavioral science work of Dr. B.F. Skinner in the 1950s.

Assessment Composition

The ABLLS consists of a battery of 25 sections, with each section being a marker of a particular skill or ability. Essentially, a doctor (or in some cases the parent or guardian) will provide some sort of stimuli or wait for natural stimuli to occur and then record the individual’s ability and choice in response to that stimuli. For example, in the “Motor Imitation” section of the ABLLS, the observer must make physical actions and movements and then record the tested individual’s ability to them imitate those actions successfully. Another example of one of the test focus sections is that of the “Labelling” section in which the observer records the individual’s ability to name, classify, and label items and groups of items. The time it takes to complete the assessment can greatly vary based on the individual being tested.


Today, while commonly referred to as ABLLS, this assessment is also correctly referred to as ABLLS-R in many instances. This is because most applications of the ABLLS test today are of the revised version and method which was produced in 2006. So, what changed with the revised version’s publishing?

As of the 2006 revision, the ABLLS uses an updated battery of sections. The number of sections, however, did not change. The revision also set out a specific sequence of section progress as opposed to following any sequence the observer may have arbitrarily chosen in prior times.

Connecting to the Creators

As the ABLLS has come to really help many patients and medical experts over the years, curiosity regarding its creators has abounded. While there were a number of behavioral scientists and researchers involved in this assessment’s creation, Dr. James W. Partington and Dr. Mark L. Sundberg are the primary, accredited minds behind the system. Partington led the charge on the 2006 revision and is subsequently accredited with it as well.

For those interested in learning more about these professionals or even exploring the possibility of getting in contact with them, they each maintain an online presence to date. Dr. James W. Partington maintains a LinkedIn page with helpful links, articles, and more. Dr. Mark L. Sundberg maintains his own webpage in which he produces an array of resources and information on his work and ABLLS.

The sciences have come a long way in finding ways to work with and improve the lives of those with autism and learning disabilities of all kinds. An accurate method for assessing language and learning status in these individuals is just one example of an excellent, modern benchmark along the way here. The ABLLS Assessment is the primary tool that serves this important function today.