Using the VB Mapp App to Assess and Teach Language with Liz Maher

Following up on the last two episodes on the VB Mapp from Dr. Mark Sundberg and Dr. Barbara Esch, Liz Maher BCBA and co-owner of DataMTD joins me to discuss the VB Mapp App.

Data Makes The Difference (DataMTD) 

Liz’s ABA expertise and her husband Steve’s software and technology experience come together in the best way in the creation of their apps. Liz and I go way back, to my early career in the Verbal Behavior Project. She shares how her first app was created to track data, and while it’s not obsolete it has laid the foundation for many other companies to create similar and more improved versions. Liz and her husband created the VB Mapp App and the Essential For Living App.

The VB Mapp App

The VB Mapp app is an efficient and organized way to help parents, caregivers, and providers administer the VB Mapp even if they have little to no understanding of the operants. This is not a quick assessment and can take several hours, but the tools provided can make the process smoother. You can get a free version or buy it if that’s right for your needs. Listen back to the last two episodes (219 and 220) to get more information on the VB Mapp.

Top Assessing Mistakes

Whether you’re a parent or a provider, there are so many simple mistakes that can be made when administering any assessment. Liz and I discuss mistakes we’ve seen and even some we’ve made. We discuss things like how to avoid mixing operants and over-accounting for skills.

You have to check out the VB Mapp app because this tool can be really valuable for not only assessing but teaching and programming as well. 

Using the VB Mapp App to Assess and Teach Language with Liz Maher

Liz Maher on the Turn Autism Around Podcast

Liz has been a Board Certified Behavior Analyst since 2008. She is also a mother of two young adults. Her oldest child, Sarah, is now 26 years old and was diagnosed with autism in 1998.

Liz has not only had experience being a mother to a child with autism, but has spent close to 15 years providing consultation to teachers in Pennsylvania on Applied Behavior Analysis and Skinner’s Analysis of Verbal Behavior.

Liz, along with her husband Steve, created the company DataMTD which produces the VB Mapp app for Dr. Mark Sundberg, as well as the EFLapp for Dr. Patrick McGreevy. Together, Steve and Liz, have created a company that not only provides electronic apps but also provides online and onsite training on these amazing assessments as well as training on basic Applied Behavior Analysis principles and procedures.

Liz is passionate about training people on the science of Applied Behavior Analysis in a non-intimidating way, and helping people who work and live with children and adults with autism understand how the science can not only make their children’s lives better but also their own.


  • What is the VB Mapp app?
  • How can the VB Mapp app help parents and caregivers with no assessment experience?
  • How to know when you should move forward from the VB Mapp.
  • The Data Makes The Difference, company, and applications.
  • The top assessing mistakes by parents, caregivers, and providers. 
  • How long should a typical assessment take?
Want to get started on the right path and start making a difference for your child or client with autism? SIGN-UP FOR DR. MARY BARBERA'S FREE TRAINING


Liz Maher – Turn Autism Around Podcast Transcript

Transcript for Podcast Episode: 221

Using the VB Mapp App to Assess and Teach Language with Liz Maher

Hosted by: Mary Barbera

Guest: Liz Maher

Mary: Are you using the VB Mapp to assess children with autism or toddlers showing signs of autism? If so, you may want to tune in today for a discussion with Liz Maher all about the VB Mapp App.

Intro: Welcome to the Turn Autism Around podcast. For both parents and professionals in the autism world who want to turn things around, be less stressed and lead happier lives. And now your host, Autism mom, behavior analyst and bestselling author, Dr. Mary Barbera.
Mary: Okay. We have my good friend Liz Maher here today. Thanks for joining us, Liz.

Liz: Thanks, Mary. Thanks for having me on.

Mary: Yeah, it's been a few years since we've seen each other or even chatted. So we're going to talk about, you know, how we became friends. And it's all involved with your story of how you fell into the autism world. So why don't you tell our listeners about that?

Liz Maher on the Turn Autism Around Podcast

Liz: Yes, I'm very much like you. I am a mom. So Sarah is now 27. She was diagnosed with autism when she was two years, ten months old. So that was 1998. So that's very similar to you with lucas. And at the time we were in Northern Virginia, it really wasn't too much going on in terms of using the science of applied behavior analysis. And we started off our journey doing kind of the regular things. You know, she had speech therapy, she had O.T., all really good things, except they just couldn't break it down. And she was having trouble and she started getting problem behavior and sessions. And the speech therapist actually said, you know what? I think she needs some help in terms of using the procedures of applied behavior analysis. I know someone who can help you.

Mary: So even the speech therapist recommended ABA, which is yeah, it's a little bit unusual, but that's good.

Liz: It is, actually. It's kind of funny. Let me take a tiny step back with that, because when Sarah was diagnosed, this speech therapist, Sarah was making progress at the beginning. And Sarah did have the opportunity to have 40 hours of ABA services in the home. It was a pilot program for ten kids. And this speech therapist who then recommended applied behavior analysis actually had said to me initially, Oh, no, no, no, no, Sarah doesn't need that. So I turned it down. And then I think both the speech therapist and I were like, There's something. We need something here. And so we couldn't get that 40 hours of free ABA in the home.

Mary: Which was a big decision.

Liz: Yes, I think I try not to have too many regrets, but that is a really big one. But the one thing that came out of it was we got a little bit of help. And actually the consultant who was running this 40 hour pilot program said she would help with Sarah's program. We set up a program and we actually ran it. So in a way that then made me fall in love with the science of ABA because I realized how these procedures were helping Sarah. And I went back to school and got my master's. We decided to move to Pennsylvania, and then I think that's when I started stalking you. And I met you at the National Autism Conference. We met through the Verbal Behavior project, started working there. You and Kelly G. Shout out to her were my mentors, and I became BCBA. So I always say Sarah gave me my career. She actually gave Steve, my husband, his career, too, because now we work together on creating apps and training.

Mary: Yeah. Wow. Yeah, that was a long time ago. And so Liz and I both were in the Pennsylvania Verbal Behavior Project. I was the lead behavior analyst for the project from 2003 to 2010. And then Liz came to work for us, and then I would, as she said, provided some mentorship. But we used to specialize in recruiting gung ho moms who wanted to become behavior analysts. So we have, you know, several of us.

Liz: Had quite a few.

Mary: Yeah, I think at least. Point when we had maybe, I don't know, 20 or 30 behavior analysts all contracted, mostly a third of us were.

Liz: Yes, I was going to say about 5 right?.

Mary: I think there were probably closer to ten at one point. So I ended up doing some research on the experiences of autism moms who become behavior analysts, a qualitative study. We can link that in your show notes. Liz wasn't part of that initial pack of five or six, but Liz and I have a long history. So you said that you, you know, got your whole career very, very similar story to mine. You also have a son whose...

Liz: Oh, yes.

Mary: Yeah. So you had your kids back to back like I had my kids. And so he is typically developing and then.

Liz: For a 24 year old.

Mary: He's 24. Yeah.

Liz: I was going to say, typically developing for a 24 year old.

Mary: But yeah, that's a good point. So my kids at the time of this recording are 2026 for Lucas and 25 for Spencer. Okay. Yeah, very similar. So yeah, I also like what you said about, you know, you don't like to live your life with regrets. And I think there's just a whole lot we could have, could have should have would have, a lot of, you know, and I often say, like, if I had the knowledge that in my Turn Autism Around book back when Lucas started showing signs like I am positive Lucas' life would be way different, but I didn't have the knowledge. And had you started with that 40 hour week ABA program, you don't know how you would have gotten involved. Probably not or probably not as much. And you don't know, maybe they were doing very strict, rigid, you know, kind of ABA that it wouldn't have been a good fit for Sarah. So I like your attitude of just, you know, it was a big decision, but we can't have regrets. We can't, we don't have a crystal ball to look backwards or look forwards and I just like, you're just let's move forward.

Liz: Well, I'm trying. If I keep saying it, then I will feel it, right? That's kind of where I'm at.

Mary: And so we were both involved with the VB-project, which is now called It's Still Going Strong, actually. It's the Patton Autism ABA Supports Initiative. The whole time I was there, it was the Pennsylvania Barbell Behavior Project, so I can still call that. But, you know, we were very involved. And one of the really cool things about this is that we used to go to the carbone clinic and we'd do two day learnings eight times. I think I was there. And so that was amazing. Mark Sundberg came almost every year to train us and then we got to test the VB Mapp. Starting in 2006, we were field testing VB Mapp. It was published in 2008, but it wasn't just like a little field testing. Like we literally timed ourselves with how long it took. We literally gave Mark Sundberg feedback about the paper version of the VB Mapp and he used that feedback to make it better. And he also himself and his wife, Cindy, they field tested with typically developing kids and it was really quite exciting back there. And I do also want to point out that Liz is podcast to 221 and to 219. We did a classic rebroadcast with Mark Sundberg and last week on the podcast to 20 was Barbara Asch who wrote the ISA part of the VB Mapp. So this is our little three episodes about the vibe map mostly. But as you can see, Liz has a very different perspective as a mom and as an app developer. So at what point did you and your husband, and Steve was going to be here today, but he's not feeling well, so Liz is just.

Liz: He tried to rally.

The VB Mapp App

Mary: But yeah, so you guys started trying to make the VB Mapp, which was in a booklet to be more accessible on software. And like, what year did that happen? And was Steve in the computer software development field or like how did that all come to be?

Liz: Yeah, so that was crazy. So Steve was in the Navy and in the Navy, he did computer development and things like that. He was a unique sysadmin. Which is one of those things. I don't know other people out there, your listeners, you know, if they have a spouse that does something that you really don't know what it is, but you just know the title, that's kind of what I'm doing now. He was a unique sysadmin. No idea what that means. Something with computers. So he was working in Manhattan. He would commute in and I was working. I thought it was. I don't know whether it was the autism initiative at that time, but whatever it was called, I was there working consulting.

Mary: It was still the VB Project.

Liz: It might have.

Mary: Been. Yeah, it doesn't matter.

Liz: It doesn't matter.

Mary: It's around 2010..

Liz: Around that time, maybe 2009. I remember I was sitting at my desk and Steve looked over and I'm graphing problem behavior data. And he says, What are you doing? And I'm like, I have this amazing teacher who is so swamped and she's taken all this data for me, but we haven't had time to graph, so I'm gonna just do that now. And he's like, you know, unless there's got to be something, there has to be some way to use technology to harness technology to help with this. So I don't know whether you remember, but we came out with a little app. Steve didn't code. He's not a coder, but we found someone to code this little app called Behavior Tracker Pro Beta.

Mary: As you're saying this story, I'm remembering that because I helped field test that, too.

Liz: Yes. Yes, you did. That's right. So you're a field tester!

Mary: I am a field tester. Yep.

Liz: Nurse, mother, BCBA, field tester.

Mary: So I'm glad you brought that up. So that was a way to keep data to that. And it would graph automatically.

Liz: It would graph it. Yes, on the phones, on the iPad. And I am so I'm kind of proud of it because it's obsolete. Now we have finally pulls it from the app store but I it was one of the if not the first it was close first. It may have been first or second out there as a data collection app. And I'm really proud because I think it then allowed other companies, I think looked at it and made it even better and took off with it. And here we are now we have all these companies collecting data and skill acquisition data, problem behavior data. So I like to think that BTB helped start that off. So we had that going. And as you said, we would see Mark Sundberg every year. He would come to the autism initiative and and Steve and I got to know him and we ended up talking to him and just saying, you know what, you've got this amazing assessment. But what we want to do and mission at data makes the difference is to make people who are working with kids their lives easier so they can do something quicker, like the filling in of boxes, the scoring so they can spend more time working with their students. So that's our entire mission. And we were talking to him about that and he's like, Yeah, why don't you do an app for me? And for that we are so grateful because so many of these big companies were out there wanting him to go with them and he came to this little mom and pop shop to do the VB Mapp app for him. And we've loved it. We've had an amazing ride with him. We have just released a new version, which I think, you know, had a little hiccup at the beginning with the organization section. But the assessment itself offers so many nice things to hopefully help people, especially people who may not be as fluent with the verbal operants as BCBAs or clinicians. We're hoping we have a few things in there that will make it easier for people to use. So that's how that's how that came to be.

Mary: Yeah. And I feel tested the VB Mapp app too, with you, and you've always been very generous with giving my students and my online courses really very low cost or even free access along the way to the Vhb Map app. And once I use the B B map app with my clients, I mean it was like getting over like there is no going back to the paper version. So if you are listening and you do the VB Mapp, you have to get on the VB Mapp app and we're going to talk about how to do that and like what that is. Tails. But before we do that, just in general, because I just last year in the fall, we released it, but for all of 2022, mostly I was working on with a computer software developer in Canada to develop my app, which is a ten minute quick assessment, which is based on a form, a one page form in my book, page 49, of Turn Autism Around. If you have the book, it's based on the one page assessment. I did a whole podcast episode on why I created my digital assessment and that it really does go very much in line with the VB Mapp. It is what I consider to be a quick VB Mapp, like day one, week one, you know, on day one of taking my online course, you would do the you know, you used to do the one page assessment, which was all manual and not very quantifiable. Now you do the digital assessment, it's still free. I only said it was going to be free for the first thousand times of this recording. It's still free and more than I think almost 20,000 people have taken it like that. It is still free, though. We can link it to the show notes. It might not be free when you're looking for it, but right now it's still free. But it takes 10 minutes and then it gives you the one page printout. But then best of all, it quantifies things in the area and gives you four scores one for self-care, eating, sleeping, grooming, dressing and potty, and then one score for language and learning skills and one score for problem behaviors and then gives you an overall score. And so what I say is do my assessment early on. And then because the VB Mapp does take some skill, it's not like, oh, you just get the app and you're good, especially if you have an intermediate learner or a level two, level three intermediate learner, somebody that's talking but not yet conversational, somebody that isn't too fond of sitting at a work table for assessment. It could take you literally hours or days, hours or over multiple days to complete that. And a lot of times teachers and parents either don't have the expertise or don't have the time. So how would you say you would agree that especially for a level two, level three VB Mapp kids, it could take hours.

Liz: It can take hours. I mean, I do say when I'm training people, I have to say, in my opinion, just because in the past we used the ABLES before the VB Mapp and that was fabulous. But what I saw was we would start assessing in September and we were still assessing come December, January, we weren't getting to programing. The one thing about the VB Mapp, it yes, it's not going to take 10 minutes for sure, especially even with the level one learner is probably not going to take 10 minutes. But if it does, that's kind of sad because it means you're not assessing very much so. But what it does offer you is I think for the assessments out there, those larger assessments, it is more of a quick in, quick out in the sense that you want to get to the student's instructional level. You start assessing and then if they're scoring zero for, say, two three milestones, I think Mark Sundberg says in a particular skill area, you would then stop assessing that skill area. So in that sense it is. But like you said, it does take some studying of the verbal operant, some knowledge of them in order to assess. And also the other thing to remember that I hope people remember using the VB Mapp is these are milestones along the way so that it's criterion reference. So yes, there's a criteria. So in the VB Mapp, there's a criteria, you know, can they tact which is label ten actions? Well, we don't want to just get ten actions and move on because think of how many actions we know, especially when there's a milestone, the milestone at the top of level two. Those are super important. And Mark Sundberg will talk about them. And yes, they have a criteria, but there's more to it than that. You really need to kind of understand the importance of getting your learner to learn how to learn. So, yes, it's definitely a wonderful tool and I'm so excited people are embracing it. We absolutely say that we're so passionate about the two assessments and curriculum that we have created apps for. The other one is Essential for Living. We wouldn't do that if we weren't passionate about these things. But like you said, it does take some knowledge to absolutely do the VB Mapp and it isn't going to be 10 minutes, but I think it is quicker than maybe other assessments out there for sure.

Mary: Right. And I have built my whole, you know. My whole main courses when I started producing courses which just celebrated their eight year anniversary of my very first course, my whole early learner and intermediate learner course based on the VB Mapp. And so I, you know, we teach in there how to do the VB map and how to program from the VB Mapp. But I think there's a lot of mistakes people make. Let's just talk about any assessment. What do you think are the top mistakes parents and professionals make when assessing? And maybe if you don't hit some of them, I might add in.

Assessing Mistakes

Liz: Yes, please. This is like a little game, right? Like a ball game. We could play, but with no drink. Yeah. Yeah.

Mary: And I didn't prepare you for that question. I don't even know what the answers are, but let's talk about the topic. Okay?

Liz: Let's.

Mary: We can talk about any assessment.

Liz: Yes, we can bounce things off of each other. I would say one of the things and I have to be really careful with this is not to provide inadvertent prompts when you're assessing I'm a big I gaze person. So if I ask the learner to touch and I have an array out, you know, touch the cup or whatever, I have a tendency to look at that cup. So things like that, things.

Mary: I think they are related. One that's a good one, one time, very like the first year of the VB project. So we're talking 2003. I'm in a classroom, we're using the ABLES at this point, the assessment of basic language and learning skills, which I talk about a lot in my verbal behavior approach book. So we're doing the Ables until the VB Mapp came to be. So we're doing the ABLES. The teachers are brand new to my consultation. I'm brand new to being a consultant. I mean, I literally didn't know how to be a consultant, so I was like, okay, So I go in there and the teacher says, Clap your hands. Yes. And claps and provides the verbal direction. And I said, What are you assessing? Are you assessing the receptive column of clapping your hands? If so, your hands need to be under your bottom.

Liz: Right?

Mary: Clap your hands. That's assessing. Receptive. We do this. And clapping is assessing and imitating. And so when we are talking about the Abels, the VB Mapp app, or even my little assessment, we need to be clear. If we're saying touch your head, we're not giving not just an indirect prop, but a big line, right touching your head. And we will use those props if they're imitation is stronger than the receptive, which in almost every case it is, in my experience, we will use that to teach. But when we assess, we have to be super, super careful about not mixing the operants.

Liz: Absolutely. And separating that assessment versus teaching, because teaching using that imitation prompt is fabulous and a great way to go if they can imitate. But yeah, we don't want to assess them using any problems. And I think also, you know, we love our kids, whether you are a teacher, a clinician, a parent, you want these kids to do well. And I think sometimes it's hard to air on the side of caution. You want to say, Oh, yes, I've seen them do it. Yeah, they can do it. Maybe not all the time, but I'm going to say they can do it right.

Mary: Kind of guessing on whether you can fill that in or not. And be over accounting skill.

Liz: Overzealous saying yes. So I think that and that's really hard. But it's just one thing to remember. It's like you're building a house and if you don't have that nice and strong, as you know, you start teaching new skills, more complex skills that house is going to crash. And so I, I always say to people, you can never spend too much time working on those foundational skills. So I think, look at us, we're getting something.

Mary: I have another one. I actually had two, but I forgot the second one about my next. I have another one. When you assess, don't go in the same order, so don't always say touch your head and then, you know, touch your nose and then touch your belly. Or if you have a probe, she doesn't go in the same order because kids can tend to memorize that order. I have an example that kind of combines all of these issues. When Lucas was three, he was assessed and I had written down on the form that he could touch his body parts. And so the person came out and she said, You know, we're not getting him to touch body parts, so can you. And, you know, you said that he could touch his body parts. And then I'm like, Oh, yeah, yeah. And he goes, she goes, okay, can you show us? It actually combines all these. So I'm like, Oh yeah, you have to sing the Barney song first. You touch your head and then your toes and then your shoulders and then your nose. I mean, it was like you had to sing the song. You had to show, know, you had to have his attention. And it was like over counting. It was prompting. It was going in the same order. It was kind of all of them.

Liz: But you know what it also showed. It also showed a mom who really wanted to show what her son could do. And it probably showed them that he actually was responding to another human being socially because maybe he hadn't been responding to them. So, I mean, it was great that you showed them that. But yes, absolutely. We had the same thing with Sarah. And when we started her program, it probably wasn't based on verbal behavior. I remember going to see Vince Carbone speak and suddenly hearing about verbal behavior and the importance of the man or having them request. And we hadn't done that with Sarah. And she could label a ton of things, but she couldn't ask for anything. So this program wasn't based on that. I wish it had been could have could have should have. But I do remember initially the woman who was helping us suggested ten trials in the same direction. Pretty soon we mixed and varied because Sarah, it would be ten trials and I would say touch your head. And a little two and a half year old just turned three. You would be. And she'd count out ten and that would be it. Like, oh.

Mary: Well that is good.

Liz: That I did. But I did know. You know what? Maybe she doesn't need to do this ten times. So we switched it up.

Mary: Actually, that reminded me of my mistake that I wrote that I wanted to write down. I forgot. Here's a very big mistake that I made many, many times when I was doing traditional ABA is not having 3 to 5 targets per program. So if you just had touch head as your program or the tact for paper towel, but you know, or the tact for the number seven, that's your only target for numbers or for paper products or for body parts, then you're going to do a whole week potentially if you're doing traditional ABA of how Chad what's this called paper towel. Then the next week you bring out napkin. You have no conditional discrimination training. And no, you know, Liz and I because we have spent so many years with the VB-Project and that was great unbelievable training and I, I found out switched from traditional to VB when my friend flew down to Florida to hear Vince Carbone speak. And so it's like we speak the same language, but you have conditional discrimination that, you know, not picking three targets per program is going to be a problem. And then also not using multiple controls and multiple operands to teach and not mixing and bearing. But those picking one target per program are always going to kind of tank your program, you know, picking the color green. Okay, This week is the color green. What's not going to take that long for your child to go like, okay, the answer is green. Any time I see a color, it's going to be green this week. And that's one of the really important things about programing that's not well, you know, you want to do assessment on different things, not just, you know, a chair versus a sofa, but not just a chair or paper towel versus napkin or crayon and a marker and a pencil and a pen, because those are the things that kids tend to fall apart.

Liz: All right. And I think if you read, I always say to people, make sure you read, you know, I Mark Sundberg's objective and a description of the milestone. And we also have videos now of each milestone.

Mary: Really.

Liz: I hope that's helpful to people because it gives you some really great ideas of things not to forget. And I always say to people, I kind of get excited when I'm setting up a program or setting up an assessment time because you're really looking at my assessment of what I think I'm assessing. And you really need to be careful. And like you said, you want to have that similar stimulus. And I think the VB Mapp does program for that because the milestones as you get higher up it's yeah, don't forget your multiple examples. Don't forget your similar stimuli. Make sure your actions are ongoing actions, you know, So all those things hopefully can guide people to to give a good and honest and genuine assessment and help with programing.

Mary: Yeah I have one more mistake when you come up with verbals. I remember Lucas, one of Lucas's first consultants who was not into VB. You know, she's asking him, you know, where do you sleep and that sort of thing. And he wasn't able to answer that yet. I counted it as correct because I would fill ins, you sleep in...., right? So we do have an episode with Katty, whose son just had a speech delay and we can link her show in the show notes. But we have examples of her son's inter verbal subtests and and kind of aware about the way. So when you are assessing those intraverbals, those questions, answers to questions, you need to do it sequentially so that initially it is song villains it is fill ins, with you sleep in a....bed and then you get to where do you sleep. So as different people are assessing, you know, they may not count that as a skill where we can really need to know if they have early intraverbal fill ins and things?

Liz: And then the other thing is I actually experienced this actually in a school where a kiddo came in and she had all these introverts listed. It was amazing. She actually came in with a VBE map assessment, her card sort system or the. Cino, which is, you know, if you're in the fields or if you're a teacher, you're probably like, wow, I never get that kind of information. So it was fabulous. And we were very grateful. And we sat her down and we said the very first one was, I think it's I intraverbal nine, the what questions and it was what you brush. We said what do you brush? And she said, hair. And I'm like, Oh, great, what else do you brush? And she said, Yeah. And then we said, Um, what is this? Didn't know. And we got a brush out and what am I doing? Didn't know. So it's that speaking of those foundational skills, as if, if your learner, if your child, your student, if they do have those foundational skills. Absolutely. Get to intro verbals. That's going to be a conversation. But we want to make sure they have those foundational things, too.

Mary: I have a perfect example of that exact same thing happening. Holly Kibby came to my house once to assist Lucas, and I was already a BCBA in the VB project and I just wanted, you know, I wasn't great at programming for intermediate learners at that point. Now I consider myself really good at programming for intermediate learners, but I just wanted to like the best of the best so I had Holly come and she took out an airplane, the three D airplane, and she's like, What is it? And before she took out the airplane, she said, What flies in the sky? And he said, Airplane. And she said, An airplane has. And he said, wings and you know, that sort of thing. And then or maybe we showed her that she pulled out the airplane. She's like, what is it? Airplane? What part is this? And he had no idea. So when you teach kids, you know, a dog is a pet or a dog is an animal or this is brushing hair, but you don't teach the tacts, the tacts of the actions or you can lose the tact by focusing. There is another mistake. Now we're just going. Animal sounds. Moomoo You know, Moomoo says the cow, you know, you teach them cow, you teach a moo, and then you hold up a cow and say what it says Moomoo or Moomoo says a cow. And then people go like, Well, yeah, that's right, that's close. That's good.

Liz: Yeah, that sounds.

Mary: And then you lose the tact, which happens a lot. Yeah, but you could also not teach the tack like we did with the airplane in the wings, so.

Liz: Right. Yeah. Everything.

Mary: The other big mistake before we move on is, in my opinion, when a clinic or a BCBA uses the VB Mapp for assessment because it's provided by insurance, you know it's becoming more standard to accept a VB Mapp assessment as one of the key assessments. Right. For insurance to pay for it. They'll use it for assessment and then they'll make the goals b traditional goals like eye contact, sitting in a chair, echoics, length of utterance. So they won't really, in my opinion, take full advantage of the way you can program and set goals based on the individual's VB Mapp.

Keeping Assessments Functional and Appropriate

Liz: And move across the operation. So and then for me, and it's just again, for me, my issue is one of our missions is to make everybody, you know, their lives easier by providing apps and making them electronic, but then also realizing when to do the VB Mapp and when you need to move on to more of a function based assessment. So that's another thing that, you know, there are a lot of learners out there that really need to move on.

Mary: So right, that we can't spend you know, you have a ten year old that's it. Or, you know, older, that's an intermediate learner. You know, they're intermediate learners or they might not even be in it. They're early learners. And so spending hours and hours on a VB Mapp is not very functional. And that's really where you need to work as a team. You need to collaborate, but you need to make the goals based on where they're at and you need to find out where they're at as quickly as possible and make everything as functional as possible. Especially for the kids that aren't making great progress. They are, you know, severely autistic. They've got other conditions potentially. And, you know, you spend a lot of time on what I call a blog. We can like tit for tat programming like nobody's got to. Time for tit for tat programming. If a child is throwing themselves on the ground or not toilet trained, I don't care how many items they have.

Liz: Correct. Correct. And then I always laugh, and it's so true because I wasn't me. This was Pat McGreevy says, you know, how many times in your life has someone come up to you and said, name some farm animals? Nobody would ever ask me that. Or if you want to make it functional, name some parts of a vacuum. Nobody's ever asked me that. Now, if you're going academic, if you're going developmental assessment, if your learner is making great progress. Absolutely. We want to teach concepts. We want to, you know, get them caught up to their typically developing peers. But if they're not. Again, nobody gets asked that. So it's just it's just figuring out what's right for the individual. And each individual is an individual right. So we've got to figure it out.

Mary: We want kids to be as safe as possible, as independent as possible, and as happy as possible. That's my kids.

Liz: Yes.

Mary: So we have to really think about not just the assessment we're going to use, the targets, the programs, what type of situation they're in. And I mean, tacts are important for jobs, for man's tax, you know, as volunteer opportunities, you know, for lucas bag versus box or, you know, the names of things that he packs at the food bank like.

Liz: And he may know.

Mary: People working with him. So it's not like we just abandon VB or we abandon..

Liz: No no.

Mary: It's just that we have to make sure that we are as functional as possible.

Liz: Right. And Essential for Living is based on the science of ABA. Plus Skinner's analysis of verbal behavior as a whole, domain on requesting, you know, so important. So absolutely. I agree with you. No, no, no. We don't abandon it. But you're right. We need to perhaps, you know, focus on a different part of it, you know. Depending on your needs.

Get The VB Mapp App

Mary: Well, I know we have to wrap up. I have a couple more questions. I know you speak on ABA. You're really focused on apps and education. And so how can people find you? Follow your work, get you to speak by the app. Where should they go?

Liz: And I'm so bad at promoting us, so I need to do a better job.

Mary: Hang out with me more. Okay.

Liz: Sounds good. You teach me. Teach me how I know you're doing a great job. You're getting to, you know, these people who are waiting on waitlists for diagnoses, and at least they have something that, you know, they can turn to and they can do. And I think that's fabulous. I wasn't on a wait list when Sarah was first diagnosed. You probably weren't either. But when we did get the diagnosis, I had no idea what to do. There was no guidance. It was just, there's your diagnosis, you know, I'll take your coping on the way out. So how can people get in touch with me? So we are trying to get on social media a little bit more. So please follow us.VB Mapp App and EFL app. We are going to have a company that is going to have its own web page really soon. Called Data Makes the Difference and from there you'll be able to go either to VB Mapp or EFL. How else can you follow me?

Mary: Well, you can download the VB Mapp app on the App Store, right? That's the way. And then you can even get a free version and then you can buy it.

Liz: You can get a free version, but anybody who wants to try it out, we are so happy to give a license to because we want to make sure that it's what you need, you know, or EFL as well. We promote that. We'll give you a license for Essential For Living because it's really important you figure out what assessment works best for you. So yeah, websites, social media, email, the command, putting that you've got a lot of listeners, so maybe I should be doing that a lot.

Mary: We just crossed over in the fall 1 million downloads.

Liz: My goodness.

Mary: So of just the podcast audio version. So I do think that the VB Mapp app is really a great tool for the right kids and the right professionals, but it is really a great tool that provides graphing right away. You've got your colors, you've got your your.

Liz: Scoring added up.

Mary: You have even sample IEP goals. The report function is so great. I know as a BCB, when I used when I was finishing up working 1 to 1 with kids and I was doing functional behavior assessments, I would only do a functional behavior assessment if they allowed me time to also do the VB Mapp and I use the VB Mapp app and I created the report because it really if you have a child having major problem behaviors, I can't think of an instance where it's not related to language and mandating and skills are they're working on or too high, hard, and just all these things that are so intertwined that I think as behavior analysts we I mean, that was kind of a bold move for me to be like, I'm doing the VB Mapp if you want me to do FBA and you got to pay me a lot more because it takes a lot more effort. But with your report function, I was able to tie it in really nicely to make people think like it is not just reducing problem behaviors, it's increasing language learning, functional skills at the same time. And that's what we need to focus on.

Liz: For sure. Absolutely. Well said.

Mary: All right, cool. Well, before I let you go, part of my podcast goals are to help parents and professionals be less stressed and lead happier lives. So what are your tricks for stress reduction?

Liz: Oh, my goodness. And that doesn't involve drinking, correct? I'm joking.

Mary: I've never had that as an option. .

Liz: So just bring Liz on your podcast and you get a whole different difference on that. I'm joking, everybody. This is very hard to do, especially if you guess if you have a child with autism, it's hard to have your teacher with paperwork, but trying to carve out time for yourself is huge. I'm trying to do that. I'm trying to work on my health. I'm trying to go for a walk with the dog, you know, just get away from the screens and try not to compare yourself to others as well. And I hope I will never judge anybody. But just knowing that people don't know my life, you know, and I'm walking. You can only know what's going on if you walk in someone's footsteps. So just kind of being. You know what? Here we are. Mary, that took me a long time to get to this. But I've heard people say you should treat yourself the way you would treat a dear friend. Right. And sometimes we're harsh on ourselves and we need to be a bit gentler.

Mary: Nice. I love it. All right. Well, thank you so much for your time. It's been so great catching up. We have to get together soon, so hopefully my listeners love that. I think we made a lot of mistakes that we did face and hopefully we have also increased the probability that professionals out there and advanced parents will take a stab at the VB Mapp app and really try to help their kids and their clients. So thanks so much.

Liz: Thanks, Mary.

Mary: If you're a parent or an autism professional and enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out my online course and community where we take all of this material and we apply it. You'll learn life changing strategies to get your child or clients to reach their fullest potential. Join me for a free online workshop at where you can learn how to avoid common mistakes. You can see videos of me working with kids with and without autism, and you can learn more about joining my online course and community at a very special discount. Once again go to for all the details. I hope to see you there.