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Frequently Used ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) Terms

February 7, 2020
By: BI Staff
Reviewed by : Molly Adams, PhD, BCBA, LBA

If you are new to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), you could be overwhelmed and confused with the new terms you are suddenly hearing.

We want to make sure you have all the guidance needed to navigate this journey. So, we’ve put together a quick and handy list to understand some of the frequently used terminology in ABA therapy.

ABA: “Applied Behavior Analysis” is a way to teach, manage, or reduce behaviors.

ABA Therapist: A person who provides ABA therapy.

Antecedent: What happened right before the behavior.

Cooperative Play: The child shows interest in the individuals involved, and the activity in which they are engaged.

Contained Classroom: The classroom has only children with special needs.

Developmentally Delayed (DD): An infant or child is not progressing as they should be in areas such as babbling/talking, sitting up, crawling.

Discrete Trial Training (DTT): The therapist breaks more extensive skills into small ("discrete") components. It makes learning a new skill easier by using the graduated steps.

Echoics: Imitating what is heard.

Elopement: A learner runs away or wanders from an area they are not supposed to leave.

Fine Motor Skills: Coordination and movement of the smaller muscles of the body.

Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA): Determines a behavior and then creates an intervention based on that function. It involves observation, interviewing, and collecting data.

Gross Motor Skills: Skills using the larger muscle groups, which involve sitting, walking, jumping, and so forth.

Hand Over Hand Prompting (HOH): A physical prompt - placing hands over the learner's hand to help them comply with a directive or motor demand.

Individual Education Plan or Individual Education Program (IEP): This is a legal document for special education students (usually up to age 22). It outlines the goals to work on during the coming year.

Inclusive Classroom: The classroom includes typical learning children and children with special needs.

Intervention: The plan of action to be used to change a behavior. Or build up a skill.

Intraverbal: This is a type of language that involves explaining, discussing, or describing a situation or item that is not present or not currently happening - such as asking the person, "What are you eating today?"

Mainstream: Successfully placing a special needs child into a typical classroom. It is, of course, the long-term goal for a child with special needs.

Mand: The word is derived from "command" and "demand." The child is requesting a desired item.

Mouthing: The child inappropriately places items in his/her mouth, such as a toy. It can also refer to a child "licking" an object.

Parallel Play: This happens when two or more children are playing near each other, but they do not interact. This may be because the child prefers to play alone or does not understand how to play with others.

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): The functionally non-verbal person uses picture cards to communicate. The system allows the individual to request and communicate their needs.

Prompt: A type of assistance or a cue given to help the learner complete a task. It also helps to increase accurate responding.

Registered Behavior Technician (RBT): A credential that states the person has successfully met specific education and experience standards and successfully completed an exam. This is now a requirement to be part of an ABA staff.

Reinforcer: Something used to motivate the learner to complete a task or engage in a behavior. It will increase the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. It might be something tangible, social, or physical.

Self-Injurious Behavior (SIB): The person performs actions resulting in physical injury to the body. This includes hitting oneself, head-banging, biting, picking at the skin, or scratching or rubbing oneself repeatedly to cause bruising, bleeding, or other harm.

Shadow: A person who attends school with a child to help increase independence, assist with lessons, and manage negative behaviors.

Tacting: The child labels or names an object, action, or event. It is how we describe the things we hear, see, smell, and touch.

Target Behavior: This is behavior the therapist is trying to increase or decrease. Multiple target behaviors can be worked on at the same time.

Transitions: Changing from one activity to another. For example, the child transitions from a play activity to a work activity, which might be very difficult for the individual.

Verbal Behavior (VB): It focuses on understanding and teaching language as a behavior.

There are many other terms you will be introduced to during your treatment plan. Not to worry, our center team will help you understand all associated terminology and answer your questions. If you are new to the ABA journey, feel free to contact us at 855-782-7822 and we’ll address any concerns you may have.

Safety is always a priority at our centers. We have strict COVID-19 prevention protocols in place to ensure our centers are a safe place for your family and our team. Find out more about our enhanced safety measures.

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