ABA Glossary | ABA Therapy Terms and ABA Language To Know

June 7, 2021

10 ABA Therapy Terms To Know

Learn more about these common terms you’ll likely hear during ABA therapy 

ABA Terminology

Has your child recently started ABA therapy? Or, did your child recently receive an autism diagnosis? As you seek out resources to help your family down this path, you may start to hear new terms that are foreign to you, making meetings with specialists confusing or possibly even frustrating. Your team at Acorn Health has put together a list of the top 10 terms used in ABA, with simple definitions to explain what they mean. Now, during your next meeting with an ABA therapist, you’ll have a better understanding of what to expect. 

ABA Terms, Language and Techniques

1. Antecedent 

The events, action(s), or circumstances that occur immediately before a behavior. These are important aspects for your BCBA’s to recognize and observe to better understand your child’s behaviors. 

2. Behavior

This word is commonly used in everyday language, but in ABA therapy it specifically refers to any action that can be observed and measured. 

3. Consequence

You may consider the term “CONSEQUENCE” to have a negative connotation, but in ABA it can have a different meaning. It is anything that happens directly after a behavior occurs. This can be good, bad, or neutral. These events help your BCBA determine the possible function of the behavior. 

4. Functional Behavior Assessment

This refers to the process used to find and define target behaviors and their possible functions. There are three main parts to the FBA process:  

  • Gathering information (caregiver interviews) 
  • Direct observations (data collection) 
  • Creating a plan of action 

5. Behavior Intervention Plan

This term refers to the treatment plan, which takes the results from the FBA and turns it into a plan of action. Some key components of a BIP include: 

  • Target behavior definitions 
  • Hypothesized functions 
  • Medical Necessity  
  • Prevention strategies 
  • Consequence strategies 
  • Client goals 
  • Caregiver goals 

6. Functional Communication

Following an effective assessment process, treatment often involves teaching the child to obtain the same outcomes in the same contexts with another, more effective, safer behavior. This is called functional communication training or FCT. 

7. Positive Reinforcement

This is anything added that increases a targeted behavior. What is reinforcing will differ with every child and should be reviewed frequently throughout treatment. 

8. Pairing 

This is the process of building rapport by “pairing” oneself with the child’s favorite items and activities. Through these repeated connections, we take on the reinforcing value of all the good stuff, leading to better outcomes in therapy. 

9. Mand

A request to fulfill a want or need. Manding is one of the first forms of communication naturally acquired.

10. Tact

A label for something the speaker sees, hears, smells, or tastes.

Bonus ABA Terms and Examples

11. Discrete Trial Training

This ABA technique breaks certain skills down into smaller components that are more easily digestible. This is a common way for teachers to articulate concepts to autistic children more effectively. For example, instead of training a child on colors they would start with a specific color like red or blue.

12. HOH Prompting

Although it’s a tactic that should eventually be faded out, hand over hand prompting is a useful way to teach young children certain academic skills like using a toothbrush correctly. Once the skill is reliably adapted, the HOH can fade out.

13. Task Analysis

When it comes to teaching and completing behaviors, organization is key. Task analysis demands producing a step-by-step list of moves needed to perform the behavior.

14. Fine Motor Skills

Coordination and movement in the muscles are an important skill set for autistic children to master. Most children struggle with motor difficulties like problems handwriting.

If you have recently spoken with us at Acorn Health and still have questions about what to expect, never hesitate to reach out at (844) 244-1818. If your child is currently in services with us, please always reach out to your therapy team or the Center Director if you have questions along the way. We are here to help guide you and your family every step of the way during ABA therapy, starting from the initial ABA assessment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the 7 dimensions of ABA?

The 7 dimensions of ABA include Behavioral, Analytic, Conceptually Systematic, Applied, Technological, Effective, and Generality.

What are ABA interventions for tantrums?

To combat tantrums, autistic children should practice deep breathing, use sensory items, and be given healthy distractions.

What is shaping in ABA?

Shaping involves using reinforcement when the child is getting close to exhibiting the desired behavior. Behaviors that are not close to the desired behavior are not reinforced.

For more information on ABA, see:

How to Identify a Quality ABA Provider?

What is an ABA Assessment?

How ABA Therapy Benefits Preschoolers?