Types of Behavior Assessments

By Erica Patino, M.A.

At a Glance

    • Behavior assessments look for causes of children’s behavior issues.
    • There are different types of behavior assessments.
    • Teachers and parents often fill out questionnaires about the child being assessed.

Behavior assessments are different from tests that screen for learning issues. They don’t have right or wrong answers. Instead, they look at how kids interact with their world. These assessments can identify behavior patterns as well as reasons for the behavior. Often parents, teachers and others are asked to observe the kids and answer questions about them.

There’s no single test for behavior issues. Evaluators use a few different tools to get an idea of what might be behind the issues. Some potential causes include developmental delays, mental health issues and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (). The information is also used to develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and treatment plans.

Here are some of the behavior assessments that are commonly used.

Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales

What it measures: How a child’s daily living skills compare to those of other kids his age.

How it works: Someone who knows the child well fills out a questionnaire or answers questions about him. This is usually a parent or teacher. Questions focus on the child’s abilities in basic areas. These include communication, daily living, socialization and motor skills.

What results mean: This test looks at a child’s ability to function on a daily basis. It’s helpful for diagnosing and classifying certain types of disorders. These include autism, and developmental delays. It also helps determine how far a child is lagging behind his peers, and if there’s reason for concern.

Conners Parent and Teacher Rating Scales

What it measures: The presence and severity of behaviors related to ADHD.

How it works: Parents and teachers fill out a brief multiple-choice questionnaire on how a child behaves. Older kids may also be given a questionnaire to fill out. Areas explored include inattention, hyperactivity, learning problems and social skills.

What results mean: This screening test points out where further testing may be needed. It can help doctors diagnose ADHD. It can also help them monitor how well medication or other therapies are working for kids who are already diagnosed.

Vanderbilt Assessment Scales

What it measures: The existence and severity of ADHD symptoms. Also, other common behavioral concerns and how they might be affecting behavior and schoolwork.

How it works: This test may be given after a more general assessment suggests that a child shows signs of ADHD. Parents and teachers are asked how often they see those symptoms and other concerning behaviors. The choices are “never,” “occasionally,” “often” and “very often.”

What the scores mean: Some of the questions are related to focus issues and hyperactivity. If there are numerous answers of “often” and “very often,” it could point to ADHD.

Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC)

What it measures: Various aspects of a child’s behavior.

How it works: A parent or teacher is given a broad range of questions about a child’s behavior. That includes questions about his social skills, ways of thinking and ability to adapt.

What the scores mean: This far-reaching test is used to evaluate kids for a broad range of behavior issues. Results help identify areas of specific concern. They also help narrow down the possibilities of what the problem might be.

Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist

What it measures: Emotional, behavioral and social development and abilities.

How it works: Parents and teachers get a list of about 100 statements that describe child behaviors. They then rate how “true” or “untrue” each statement is for the child being evaluated. There’s a Child Behavior Checklist for preschoolers, as well as for older children.

What the scores mean: Test results can point to a number of behavioral and emotional issues. These include ADHD, depression, phobias and oppositional defiant disorder.

Barkley Home and School Situations Questionnaires

What they measure: A child’s behavior at home and at school.

How they work: Parents are asked to rate how a child behaves in 16 common home situations. Teachers are asked to do the same for 12 common school situations.

What the scores mean: To be officially diagnosed with ADHD, kids’ symptoms must cause difficulties in two different areas of life. These two tests together can show that.

It’s helpful to learn as much as you can about the assessment process. You can also find out about tests that are used to assess academic and social skills. Together, you and your child’s assessment team will find answers to important questions about your child’s behavior. Then you can begin to help him make the most of all he has to offer.

Key Takeaways

  • Behavior assessments usually include input from parents as well as teachers.
  • A behavior assessment is not the same as a diagnosis. It shows areas of strength and weakness.
  • Some assessments are used to monitor how well medications and other therapies are working for children already diagnosed with ADHD.

About the Author

Erica Patino, M.A., is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.


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Reviewed by

Elizabeth Harstad, M.D., M.P.H., is a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.