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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.

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.

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." (

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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." (

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.

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.