Frequently Asked Questions

This section contains questions about the AEPS that are asked frequently. The questions are divided into the following sections:

Frequently Asked Questions Related to General Use of the AEPS

Q: What do the letters AEPS mean?
A: AEPS stands for the Assessment, Evaluation, and Programming System. This name was selected because it addresses the major components of the system including assessment, intervention (i.e., programming), and evaluation (i.e., progress monitoring).

Q: What is a curriculum-based assessment?
A: A curriculum-based assessment refers to measures that emphasize a direct relationship or link to what is taught. Many curriculum-based assessments are composed of functional and meaningful skills and are used to (a) determine children's strengths and emerging skills, (b) individualize intervention efforts, and (c) measure children's progress over time.

Q: What is an authentic assessment?
A: Authentic assessments are those that collect developmental information on children by observing how they function during daily routines and play and how they interact with adults and other children. Authentic assessment outcomes are useful for understanding what children can and cannot do and what developmental targets should be selected for intervention. The AEPS is an authentic assessment and curriculum because it gathers behavioral data on children while they play and engage in typical activities in familiar surroundings and because intervention content is focused on assisting children in acquiring skills/information that will make them more able to meet environmental demands. Authentic assessment requires that someone familiar with the child is part of the assessment team that gathers the data.

Q: What is a linked system?
A: In terms of the AEPS, a linked system means that each of the system's major components including assessment, goal development, intervention, and evaluation are directly related. That is, the information obtained during assessment can be used directly to formulate goals, goals can be used to direct intervention efforts, and intervention efforts can be directly evaluated or monitored by focusing on children's acquisition and intentional use of selected goals.

Q: What information, data, or outcomes does the AEPS give you?
A: The AEPS is designed to provide functional information/data on children's strengths, interests and emerging skills in six developmental areas: fine motor, gross motor, adaptive, cognitive, social-communication, and social. The AEPS yields numerical scores, visual summaries, and narrative descriptions, all of which can be used for planning intervention, curriculum and measuring child progress. The AEPS does not produce derived scores such as age equivalences.

Q: Why doesn't the AEPS have age equivalences?
A: The focus of the AEPS is on developmental hierarchies or sequences rather than on what skills children acquire at specific ages. Goals for children should be developed in terms of what they need or are ready to learn next developmentally rather than learning material designated for certain chronological ages.

Q: Can the AEPS be used with all young children?
A: Yes, the AEPS can be used across the range of children who participate in any type of home-based, community-based, or school-based program. The AEPS was specifically developed to be used with children with disabilities from mild to severe as well as with children at risk for developmental problems. The AEPS can also be used with children who are typically developing.

Q: Can the AEPS be used with children who have severe disabilities?
A: Yes, the AEPS can be used with children who have severe disabilities. The AEPS system provides a density of skills in each developmental area and items can be modified to accommodate children's specific impairments.

Q: What are the ages of children for whom the AEPS content was developed?
A: The AEPS has two developmental levels: Level I addresses the developmental range birth to age 3 years and Level II addresses the developmental range 3 to 6 years. Users of the AEPS are encouraged to focus on children's developmental skills rather than chronological age; therefore, it may be appropriate to use Level I for children with significant disabilities even if they are chronologically older than 3 years. We do not recommend using the AEPS with children whose chronological age exceeds 9 years without significant modifications to the items and criteria.

Q: The AEPS includes 4 volumes, which ones do I need?
A: It is recommended for AEPS users to have both Volume 1 and II. Volume 1 is the administration guide and explains the procedures for using the AEPS. Volume 2 contains the test items for Level I and II. Volumes 3 and 4 provide the curriculum content and activities. Volume 3 is the curriculum for Level I while Volume 4 is the curriculum for Level II. Programs that serve children ages birth to 3 years may only need Volume 3; however, programs that serve children 3-6 years may need both Volume 3 and 4 in order to meet the development range of participating children.

Q: Can I use the AEPS curriculum material (i.e., Volumes 3 and 4) without using the assessment (i.e., the AEPS Test)?
A: You can; however, it is essential that some form of authentic curriculum-based assessment is used prior to intervention to be sure that intervention activities target the appropriate developmental level and skills for children. Recommended practice requires that careful assessment precede intervention in all cases. Accurate assessment is absolutely essential to effective intervention.

Q: Who should use the AEPS?
A: The AEPS was developed for use by professional staff with training and experience in early childhood education/early childhood special education including but not limited to communication specialists, teachers, interventionists, therapists, and psychologists. Recommended practice requires that family members be involved in the assessment process.

Q: Can a team use the AEPS?
A: Yes, a team can use the assessment and evaluation components of the AEPS. Team members may be comprised of teachers, interventionists, therapists, and family members. The team can assess/evaluate their particular area of expertise and/or other developmental areas and then share findings or one member can administer the AEPS while other team members observe and support the assessment activities.

Q: How is the assessment/evaluation component of the AEPS administered?
A: The preferred method of gathering developmental information using the AEPS is through observation of children as they negotiate their daily routines and play activities. However, information can also be collected by parent/teacher report or by direct testing.

Q: Can parents or other caregivers participate in the use of the AEPS?
A: Yes, the AEPS has a component called the Family Report that was designed especially for caregivers to provide information about their children. Intervention activities can be designed for use across settings and by parents, and other caregivers.

Q: How often should I use the AEPS® Test to assess a child?
A: The AEPS® Test does not have set times for its administration; however, we recommend that children be assessed on targeted goals at least quarterly.

Q: How long does it take to assess a child using the AEPS® Test?
A: The length of time to assess a child depends on several factors including the age and skill level of the child (it may require additional time to assess children with severe disabilities), prior experience using the AEPS® Test (familiarity with the test reduces administration time), and how information is gathered (observing daily activities may take longer than observing specially designed assessment activities). Also, the first assessment of a child generally takes longer than subsequent evaluations,

Q: How is assessment different from progress monitoring?
A: Assessment usually refers to establishing a base line-that is, determining what children can and cannot do prior to intervention. Progress monitoring refers to tracking change in children's behavior over time (e.g., weekly, monthly, quarterly) once intervention has begun.

Q: Can I use the AEPS® Test to monitor child progress?
A: Yes the AEPS® Test was developed to link assessment, intervention, and evaluation. After the initial assessment, goal development and intervention, the AEPS Test or selected items can be reassessed to monitor children's progress toward acquisition and use of important skills. For more information see the next section on Frequently Asked Questions Associated with Progress Monitoring.

Q: Is there an electronic system to help me use the AEPS?
A: Yes, the AEPS has a web-based management system into which assessment and progress monitoring information can be entered. This electronic system (i.e., the AEPSi) assists users in organizing and managing entered data, creating reports, and sharing information. To view the electronic system, go to

Q: Can the AEPS® Test be used to determine eligibility for services?
A: Cutoff scores were developed for each developmental area of the AEPS® Test that provide a valid mechanism to determine children's eligibility for services. For more information see the following section on Frequently Asked Questions Associated with Eligibility.

Q: How can using the AEPS enhance my program?
A: Using the AEPS can assist in accurately determining children's developmental repertoires, assist in developing quality goals and intervention content, and assist in tracking child progress. These processes are essential to the delivery of quality services for young children and their families.

Frequently Asked Questions Associated with Monitoring Child Progress Using the AEPS (back to top)

Q: How do I use the AEPS to monitor child progress?
A: The AEPS was designed to assist users in monitoring children's progress toward the acquisition of targeted goals. To monitor progress we recommend that the AEPS® Test be administered quarterly. However, the entire test does not have to be administered and scored; users can focus only on re-assessing the child's performance on targeted goals. Once the criteria for goals have been met, new goals can be selected and monitored.

Q: Can I collect child progress data by observing while children engage in play and daily activities or do I have to "test" the child?
A: We recommend that you collect child progress monitoring data by observing children as they engage in daily activities in familiar settings (e.g., home, classroom, play ground) with familiar people and toys/materials.

Q: How do I keep track of child change?
A: Child change can be tracked visually, narratively, or numerically. Changes in a child's performance can be plotted on a graph found at the end of the AEPS Child Observation Data Recording Form or by using the Child Progress Record (see Appendix E of Volume 1). Narrative summaries can track a child's progress through notes regarding changes in the level of assistance provided, the quality of the child's performance, or how often a child's behavior interfered with successful demonstration of desired responses. Changes in numerical scores (e.g., a child moves from a score of 12 in the Cognitive area to a score of 22) show increased mastery, independence, and use of functional skills. Family members and other caregivers can also track a child's progress by completing/updating the Family Report several times a year.


Frequently Asked Questions Associated with Determining eligibility using the AEPS (back to top)

Q: Can I use the AEPS® Test independently to determine a child's eligibility for receiving IDEA services?
A: Depending on your state's criteria for determining eligibility, you can use the AEPS alone or with other resources (e.g., family report, standardized test). Best practice dictates that multiple sources be used to determine a child's eligibility.

Q: How does the AEPS® Test determine a child is eligible?
A: The AEPS® Test has empirically derived cutoff scores for each of the six developmental areas. A child's area goal score can be compared to the cutoff scores. If the child's score is at or below the cutoff score, it is likely he/she is eligible for services. The information attained from the AEPS should be used in conjunction with other criteria mandated by each state to make an eligibility decision.

Q: How were the cutoff scores determined?
A: The cutoff scores were obtained by conducting an Item Response Theory analysis using data from over 700 typically developing children; therefore, the cutoff scores provide information on typical children's performance on AEPS® Test items.

Q: Do I have to assess and score all goals from all six areas of the AEPS® Test when determining eligibility?
A: It is recommended that you assess and score all goals from all six areas; however, it is possible to derive an area goal score for select areas without scoring goals from all six areas. State eligibility criteria will differ in terms of the number of areas in which a delay must be documented; however, a common aspect of eligibility determination is the federal directive for evaluation teams to "use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information, including information provided by the parent, that may assist in determining whether the child is a child with a disability" (IDEA, Sec. 614(b) (2). Therefore, we recommend that when using the AEPS® Test for eligibility determination teams gather information through multiple observations, reports from families and other familiar adults, direct testing as needed, and then score all goals across the six areas.

Q: Where can I find the AEPS® Test cutoff scores?
A: The cutoff scores are contained in the newly revised Appendix F of the print version of the AEPS. The cutoff scores contained in Appendix F of the Volume I text are no longer valid and should not be used in determining a child's eligibility. The web-based management system, AEPSi, can automatically compare children's area goal scores to the cutoff scores in each of the six developmental areas.

Q: Do I need any other information besides a child's area goal scores to use the cutoff scores?
A: You must know the child's chronological age.

Q: How should I calculate a child's chronological age (CA)?
A: Children's chronological age is calculated by subtracting the child's date of birth (DOB) from the test date when the AEPS was completed. This procedure is shown in the examples that follow.

Example 1

  Year Month Day
Test Date
Date of Birth

In the first example, the child's CA is 21 months.

Example 2

  Year Month Day
Test Date
Date of Birth

In the second example, the child's CA is 14 months.

Note that the child's age in months should be rounded to the next month when over 15 days have passed since the day on which the child was born (If Johnny's birthday is December 15 th , then the 15 th is the day on which he was born). In Example 2, the test date is February 6 th . On February 6th, 22 days have passed since the 15 th of the previous month, so even though he has not yet reached 14 months, his age is rounded to 14 months.

Q: Should I adjust for prematurity?
A: Yes, adjusting for prematurity may be important if the infant was one or more month's preterm. Use of the actual date of birth, during the first two years of life for preterm infants may lead to inappropriate developmental expectations. Adjustment for prematurity is done to make more accurate determinations of the child's developmental skills (or maturity) based on his or her expected date of birth rather than the actual date of birth. When adjusting for prematurity, subtract the months a child is preterm from his/her CA. For example, a child who was 2 months premature, and whose chronological age is 18 months would have an adjusted age of 16 months.

Q: Can an area goal score other than a whole number be calculated for a child?
A: No, based on AEPS® Test scoring rules, a child's area goal score can only result in a whole number even though there are eligibility cutoff scores that are decimals.

Q: Why don't AEPS® Test items have age equivalencies?
A: Most traditional standardized, norm-referenced tests and some criterion-referenced assessments provide users with age equivalencies scores; however, there are a number of problems with this practice. First, for many tests the age associated with a given item is not determined empirically; rather the item's age assignment is based on the age assignments of similar items in other tests. For example, the Gesell (Knobloch, Stevens, & Malone, 1980) is frequently used to determine the age equivalencies of items for newly developed tests. This is problematic because the Gesell data are not current, the items may differ in wording and criteria, and the larger context of the test may differ (e.g., observation versus direct test). Such differences likely affect the age equivalency of individual items. Second, age equivalencies do not inform teams as to a child's strengths, emerging skills, or needs. Third, having chronologically-based ages assigned to items may lead interventionists and caregivers to select intervention targets based on the age level of an item rather than selecting items that address children's current developmental needs. These significant drawbacks resulted in the adoption of empirically derived cutoff scores rather than using age equivalencies for AEPS® Test items.