The Assessment of Basic Learning Abilities (ABLA-R)

The Assessment of Basic Learning Abilities (ABLA-R)


A major difficulty in teaching basic skills to persons with severe intellectual disabilities is to decide what should be taught to whom, and when. How can teachers know which types of tasks an individual can readily learn? Why are some individuals capable of performing a certain task while others of the same developmental level are unable to perform that task even after many attempts? Psychologists Nancy Kerr and Lee Meyerson studied these questions carefully. They noted that successful performance of a self-care, educational, and work-related tasks may require responding appropriately depending upon the appearances or positions of objects, or upon various sounds or spoken words. For example, a person setting a dinner table and putting down a fork must discriminate this response based on the location of the plate and knife. If that person is then asked to pass the salt, the response must discriminate based on the sound of the word “salt” and on the appearance of the salt shaker (as compared to the pepper). If a person can’t yet make these discriminations, then tasks which require these abilities will be very difficult for that person to learn.

Kerr and Meyerson developed a practical, easy-to-construct, and easy-to-use instrument called the Assessment of Basic Learning Abilities (ABLA). The ABLA measures the ease or difficulty with which an individual can readily and reliably learn to perform the discriminations involved in many daily tasks. It’s therefore a useful tool for assessing and teaching many individuals with profound, severe, or moderate intellectual disabilities, and for many children with autism.

The ABLA and ABLA-Revised (ABLA-R) have been an ongoing focus of research at St.Amant Research Centre. We’re therefore pleased to make available an experimentally-tested manual designed to provide self-instruction in the administration of the ABLA-R and its use for matching the difficulty of various training tasks to the learning abilities of individuals. Study exercises are presented throughout the manual to assist you in achieving mastery of ABLA-R administration and task classification.

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