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ABA Glossary

We use a lot of different terms in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and we decided to feature one new term each week in our newsletter. The past definitions will be kept here so that parents can look at them anytime. We'll be adding new terms throughout 2023, and you can find more info on each one in the newsletters.

ABA - ABA stands for Applied Behavior Analysis. It is the application of the principles of behavior to the real world, and it is what we use daily to provide relief and create possibilities for our children and their families.

Antecedent – the situation or events that come before a behavior. These can include events, people, or objects.

Aversive stimuli - this is something unpleasant, or something that you dislike.

BCBA - It stands for Board Certified Behavior Analyst. We are certified by a national board, called the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB.) According to the BACB, "the Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®) is a graduate-level certification in behavior analysis. Professionals certified at the BCBA level are independent practitioners who provide behavior-analytic services." (

Behavior - From the RUBI Autism Network's Parent Training for Disruptive Behavior, behavior is defined as any action that can be observed, counted, or timed.

BIP - BIP stands for Behavior Intervention Plan, which is an acronym you might hear within our program or at a school or another program for people with special needs. Generally, most people agree that it is a written plan with a number of components that help address an individual's challenges with behavior in a particular setting.

Chaining - Chaining ties in to another term from our list, task analysis. We use a task analysis to break down a bigger activity into smaller steps and teach them. Chaining is the process we use to teach those steps in order.

Consequence - From the RUBI Autism Network's Parent Training for Disruptive Behavior, consequence describes what happens immediately after, and in response to, a behavior.

Daily Living Skills - (sometimes abbreviated as DLS or Activities of Daily Living as ADLs) refers to personal self care skills that take place across a variety of settings. These are often skills that contribute to a person's health and safety, as well as their ability to function independently.

Discrete Trial Training (DTT) is a type of teaching where a skill is broken down into smaller steps that are taught in a structured way. There is a specific opportunity for the child to respond and a specific response is expected and is reinforced.

Echoic - an echoic is a type of verbal operant where a child repeats a word or phrase. We can use a child's echoic skills to help prompt an answer to a different type of question - like an intraverbal.

Error Correction Error correction is simply a way of defining what we do when a child makes an error in response to a task that has been presented.

Errorless learning is a method of teaching where prompts are used right from the beginning to ensure that a learner's response is accurate. This way of teaching ensures that a child does not make an error, even when learning something new. The prompts must be faded quickly, in order to ensure the child becomes more independent with the response.

Extinction and Extinction Burst - Extinction is simply a process where a response that was previously being reinforced is no longer being reinforced. An extinction burst is what we see happening when a particular behavior is no longer reinforced (i.e. it's been placed on extinction.) An extinction burst is a sudden increase in the behavior after extinction has begun.

FBA - Functional Behavior Assessment. This acronym is a description of a way of looking at an individual's behavior to determine what the function of the behavior is, or to determine why the individual engages in this behavior.

Functional Communication Training -FCT is a differential reinforcement procedure where a child is taught an alternative response that results in the same type of reinforcement that was maintaining a challenging behavior.

HRE - HRE is a way of defining the state where a person should be when we are working with them: happy, relaxed, and engaged. This means arranging the conditions so that our children are comfortable and prepared to learn. You will often hear our therapists talking about HRE - like "He's not in HRE yet, we're not ready to work."

Imitation - Imitation is the same in ABA as in the rest of the english language - doing what someone else is doing or saying what someone else is saying. Imitation can happen immediately after observing someone or there can be a delay. Imitation is very useful in teaching new skills to children.

Intraverbal - an intraverbal is a type of verbal operant where the response is different from the verbal stimulus that evoked it. That's a fancy way to say that an intraverbal is a response to something that someone says where the speaker does not just repeat what was said. For example, when a child is asked, "How old are you?" and he replies, "5 years old" - his response is an intraverbal.

Listener Responding is a way to classify skills that require a child to respond to something said by another person, such as following a direction.

LRFFC (Learner Responding by Feature, Function, and Class) - LRFFC refers to skills that we teach children often using DTT (see above) to identify items by their features, function, or class.

Mand - A mand is a type of verbal operant that is most simply understood as a request. A mand is when one person says something and the expected response or reinforcement for speaking is an action on the part of the other person. For example, when a child says "cookie" because he wants you to give him a cookie - that's a mand.

Mastered cards are a combination of colored index cards and picture cards that each represent a skill that a child has "mastered", or something that he knows. We use mastered cards to make sure that we intermix plenty of quick and easy tasks throughout the day and to ensure that your child maintains those mastered skills.

Natural Environment Training (NET) - Natural Environment Training is a type of teaching where learning occurs more incidentally in an environment the child encounters regularly.

Operational Definition - An operational definition is a way of describing behavior that is observable and measurable. A good operational definition will be so clear that any observer will be able to tell whether the behavior is taking place or not.

Pairing is a process where a previously neutral item or activity is presented with another item to change the value of the neutral item.

Professional Crisis Management (PCM) - The PCM system provides our staff with training on prevention of crisis behavior, de-escalation of pre-crisis behavior, crisis intervention, and reintegration strategies. All of our team are trained at the Practitioner level of intervention, which requires an initial course that is 14 hours long, passing a written exam, and passing a practical exam (demonstration of the physical procedures.) In addition, we complete an annual re-certification course, which requires 7 hours, and passing the written and practical exams again. For more information on PCM, visit the PCM website.

Practical Functional Assessment -The PFA is the first step in the Skill Based Treatment (SBT) process. From the FTF Behavioral Consulting website:
"We first conduct an interview to gather information about the situations in which problem behavior tends to occur. Then we design and implement a context in which the child’s personal reinforcers are freely available and no “triggers” for problem behavior exist. The purpose is to establish trust, build rapport, and ensure that zero problem behavior and high levels of engagement are achieved.
The results from the PFA are then used to inform a skill-based treatment (SBT)."

Positive Reinforcement - The response-contingent presentation of a reinforcer resulting in an increased frequency of that response.

Preference Assessment - A preference assessment is a systematic way of determining what reinforcers are most motivating to an individual at a particular time.

Prompt – a prompt is stimulus that increases the likelihood of a particular response, like a hint, or a cue.

RBT It stands for Registered Behavior Technician. RBTs are certified by the same national board as our Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs, see above), called the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB.) According to the BACB, "The Registered Behavior Technician® (RBT®) is a paraprofessional certification in behavior analysis. RBTs assist in delivering behavior-analytic services and practice under the direction and close supervision of an RBT Supervisor and/or an RBT Requirements Coordinator, who is responsible for all work an RBT performs." (

Shaping - reinforcing successive approximations toward a terminal behavior.

Skill Based Treatment - "Skill Based Treatment consists of progressively teaching communication, toleration, and contextually appropriate behaviors (CABs)." (Source)

Tact - A tact is one of the verbal operants that Skinner defined in his book Verbal Behavior. In simple terms, a tact is labeling something, whether it be an item, a picture, or even an action. When a child says "plane" when he sees a plane flying overhead, that's a tact.

Task Analysis - A task analysis is a way of breaking down a complex skill into smaller steps in order to teach them easier. We use this for a lot of different skills, but it's especially common with activities of daily living, or ADLs.

Verbal operant - B.F. Skinner wrote a book entitled "Verbal Behavior" in 1957. In this book, he developed an analysis of spoken language and the way it is acquired typically. In this book, he defined the verbal operant as the unit of analysis of verbal behavior, and it defines the functional relation between a type of responding and motivating variables, discriminative stimuli, and consequences. That is a fancy way to say that Skinner liked to look at language by the FUNCTION of the word, not by the form.

Visual Perception/Matching to Sample -VP-MTS is one of the categories on an assessment we use regularly, the VB-MAPP (Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program.) VP-MTS includes skills like visually responding to stimuli (i.e. looking at things.) It can include simpler skills like following an item with your eyes, or just paying attention to a toy or book. It also includes a variety of matching skills, like completing puzzles, matching pictures or objects to identical pictures or objects, and sorting things. These matching skills are important building blocks for other skills, and help increase concentration, memory, and even problem solving.