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Learn ABA Acronyms & Terms

You should learn ABA acronyms and terms because, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a technically charged field, where we use a lot of technical terminologies in our writing and in how we speak. It can be difficult to really understand treatment plans, training, or workshops without some foundational knowledge of the acronyms and terms used in ABA.

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Dictionary with the word individual highlighted

Below is a glossary of acronyms and terms to help decipher some of the ABA language.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) – A science based in studying behavior in order to reduce, teach, and increase behaviors. ABA goes beyond the treatment of individuals diagnosed with autism and can be implemented and utilized in a variety of settings with a wide range of populations.

Antecedent Behavior Consequence (ABC) -This is also known as the three-term contingency; allows you to look at patterns of behavior and hypothesize functions of behavior.

Antecedent – What occurs immediately before a behavior.

Acquisition Skill – Skill to be taught.

Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) – Bachelor’s level behavior analyst. BCaBAs cannot practice individually. They must practice under a BCBA. BCaBAs conduct assessments, develop treatment plans, provide training, conduct supervision of cases, maintain documentation, and review and analyze data.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) – Master’s level behavior analyst. BCBAs can practice independently. BCBAs conduct assessments, develop treatment plans, provide training, conduct supervision, maintain documentation, and review and analyze data.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) – Doctoral-behavior analyst with doctoral designation. BCBA-Ds are able to practice independently. BCBA-Ds conduct assessments, develop treatment plans, provide training, conduct supervision, maintain documentation, and review and analyze data.

Behavior – This is the target behavior. To be considered a behavior, what we are calling a behavior must be observable and measurable.

Chaining – This is used to teach tasks or activities that have multiple steps. There are different types of chaining.

Consequence – What happens immediately after a behavior. In ABA, the consequence may not be negative. It is simply what happens immediately after a behavior.

Discrete Trial Training (DTT) – Method of instruction that is very structured and breaks skills down into discrete components. Responses are reinforced systematically as the complexity increases.

Echolalia – Repeating or imitating what is heard. This can happen immediately after hearing a word or phrase or it can be delayed.

Elopement – Leaving the area assigned or designated by any means (e.g., walking, running, etc.).

Expressive Language – Ability to use language to express oneself. This can be verbally or nonverbally.

Extinction – The process of withholding reinforcement for a previously reinforced behavior. This, typically, results in the reduction of behavior.

Extinction Burst – The increase of a behavior that has been put on extinction just after the implementation of extinction and/or the treatment plan.

Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) – Assessment conducted to attend to patterns of behavior, hypothesize/determine functions of behavior, and gather data through observation, questionnaires, and other direct and indirect measures. The FBA is used to develop a treatment plan.

Fine Motor Skills – The use of small muscle groups to complete tasks and activities. For example, writing uses fine motor skills.

Function – The reason a behavior is occurring. In ABA, there are four functions of behavior: Access, Attention, Escape/Avoidance, and Automatic.

Generalization – The ability to learn a skill or behavior in one setting or with one person and material(s), and then being able to then perform that skill or behavior in other settings and with other people and materials.

Gross Motor Skills – The use of large muscle groups to complete tasks and activities. For example, throwing a ball uses gross motor skills.

Individualized Education Plan (IEP) – Educational plan developed and implemented to help students meet educational requirements in an environment and with modifications and accommodations to best meet their needs.

Mand – Term that refers to a demand or command in order to request something.

Natural Environmental Training (NET) – Method of ABA where teaching occurs incidentally with what is occurring naturally in the environment and is patient-led.

Prompt – The level or type of assistance required to complete something or respond.

Punisher – Anything that decreases behavior. This can be items, activities, environmental factors, etc.

Punishment – Anything added or removed that decreases the future likelihood of a behavior.

Receptive Language – Ability to understand and comprehend language.

Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) – A paraprofessional that provides the direct implementation of ABA treatment. RBTs work under the supervision of behavior analysts.

Reinforcer – Anything that increases a behavior. This can be items, activities, environmental factors, etc.

Reinforcement – Anything added or removed that increases the future likelihood of a behavior.

Shaping – Reinforcing small, successive approximations towards a desired behavior.

Self-Injurious Behavior (SIB) – A classification of behaviors in which the individual is engaging in behaviors that are causing harm to themselves.

Tact – Term used to label an item present. For example, seeing a blue triangle and saying “blue triangle”.

Verbal Behavior – Based on the work of B.F. Skinner to teach language and communication. Language and communication are considered behaviors and taught based on functions.

There are many more acronyms and terms that are not outlined here. Behaviorspeak: A Glossary of Terms in Applied Behavior Analysis is a great resource to keep learning more acronyms and terminology.

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