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ABA Terminology

 Welcome to our comprehensive guide on key terminology you are likely to hear  and use during your Applied Behavior Analysis journey. This page provides a detailed overview of essential ABA terminology crucial for understanding and implementing effective behavioral interventions. 

Young girl and her BCBA discuss terminology

Antecedent

An event or activity that occurs just before a behavior.

Behavior

Anything a person says or does that is observable and measurable.

Consequence

An event that follows a behavior that impacts the likelihood of the behavior happening again in the future.  Consequences can make a behavior more likely or can reduce the likelihood of it occurring in the future.

Data

In Applied Behavior Analysis, BCBAs use data to make treatment-based decisions.  Data is taken on goals in the treatment plan every session.  The data measures some quantifiable aspect of a behavior like the number of times something occurs or the duration of a behavior.

Differential Reinforcement

Reinforcing one form of behavior while withholding reinforcement of a different form.
Example: Calling on a student with a hand raised but not calling on a student yelling the teacher’s name.

Negative Punishment

A stimulus is removed following a response that decreases the likelihood that the same response will occur again.
Example: Maria didn’t do her homework and then lost recess for the day; maria now always completes her homework.

Negative Reinforcement

A stimulus is removed following a response that increases the likelihood that the same response will occur again.
Example: Matt says, “all done” and his mom allows him to be excused from the table. Matt continues to say, “all done” in the future when finished eating.

Pairing

The process by which something becomes associated with something else.
Example: A new therapist (neutral stimulus) tries to associate themselves with fun and with activities that the child enjoys so that they also become highly preferred.

Positive Punishment

A stimulus (an object or event) follows a response that decreases the likelihood that the same response will occur again.

Positive Reinforcement

A stimulus (an object or event) follows a response that increases the likelihood that the same response will occur again.
Example: Jenny says, “drink” and her mom gives her a drink. Jenny says,”drink” in the future when thirsty.

Shaping

Teaching a new behavior reinforcing successive approximations of the desired behavior
Example: When teaching a child a new word such as cup, you begin with reinforcing “c-” then “cu” and eventually the full word “cup”.

Task Analysis

A teaching method by which a skill with many component steps is broken down into small steps for the child to learn and accomplish.
Example: Brushing teeth can be broken down into the following steps: get toothbrush, toothpaste, and cup out; take the cap off of the toothpaste, put toothpaste on the toothbrush; put the cap back on the toothpaste; brush your teeth: rinse mouth out; spit the water into the sink; put the toothbrush, toothpaste, and cup away.

Treatment Plan

A document, created by a  Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), that outlines the specific skills that will be targeted for learning and, if applicable, any strategies for reducing challenging behaviors

If you would like to expand your understanding of ABA terminology, CLICK HERE