ABA Therapy Terms: A Guide

Master aba therapy terms and transform your child's learning journey with ASD. Knowledge is power!

reuben kesherim
Ruben Kesherim
May 14, 2024

ABA Therapy Terms: A Guide

Understanding ABA Therapy

Before diving into the specific terms used in ABA therapy, it's essential to comprehend the fundamental elements of this therapeutic approach. ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis, is a method of therapy used to improve or change specific behaviors, particularly in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Basics of ABA Therapy

ABA therapy can help enhance a variety of skills, such as social abilities, communication patterns, fine motor skills, and academic abilities. Moreover, it can also assist in improving job proficiency and simple skills like maintaining a clean and organized room [1].

ABA therapy programs aim to increase behaviors that are beneficial and decrease behaviors that are harmful or affect learning. Therapists, known as registered behavior technicians (RBTs), work directly with individuals with autism under the supervision of a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) to practice skills and achieve individualized goals.

ABA therapy has been utilized since the 1960s to help children with autism and related developmental disorders. The therapy teaches children with autism skills to function in different settings, such as home, school, grocery stores, and parks. Additionally, it can help manage aggression and self-injury tendencies in children receiving therapy.

Principles of ABA Therapy

ABA therapy is based on the work of psychologist B.F. Skinner, who developed a theory of operant conditioning that examines how behavior can be controlled by altering the consequences of that behavior. Similar principles are used by parents when they punish a child for doing something wrong and reward them for doing something well.

One of the main strategies used in ABA therapy is positive reinforcement. This technique involves providing rewards or praise to encourage desired behavior. The reinforcement needs to quickly follow the behavior to associate it with the positive outcome and increase the likelihood of the behavior recurring [1].

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the science of using behavior principles to help individuals with autism understand and enhance their behaviors. It involves applying tactics derived from behavior principles to improve socially significant behavior [3].

ABA therapy operates on seven core concepts known as the seven dimensions of ABA, which include generalization, effectiveness, technological aspects, application of learned skills, conceptual systematic approach, analysis to ensure effectiveness, and addressing behaviors both externally and internally [3].

Understanding these principles of ABA therapy is vital to grasp the potential impact this therapy can have on individuals with autism. By focusing on enhancing positive behaviors and decreasing harmful ones, ABA therapy can significantly improve the quality of life for those on the autism spectrum.

Key Terms in ABA Therapy

Understanding the language associated with ABA therapy can be a critical part of effectively using this approach. Below, three key terms associated with ABA therapy are defined and explained.

A-B-C Model

A fundamental term in the field of ABA therapy is the A-B-C model. A-B-C stands for Antecedent (A), Behavior (B), and Consequence (C). This model is a description of a response in terms of these three elements.

In this model:

  • The Antecedent refers to the event or environment that triggers a particular behavior.
  • The Behavior is the individual's response or action following the antecedent.
  • The Consequence is the result of the behavior, which can either reinforce the behavior, making it more likely to occur again, or punish the behavior, making it less likely to recur.

This model forms the basis of understanding how behaviors are learned and how they can be modified.

ABLLS Assessment

The ABLLS (Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills) is an assessment tool used in ABA therapy. The assessment covers a range of skills, including language, social interaction, self-care, academic, and motor skills. The ABLLS can help therapists and educators develop a comprehensive program tailored to an individual's needs.

The ABLLS is typically administered at the start of a therapy program, and progress is tracked regularly to adjust the program as needed. It provides a structured way to understand a child's strengths and areas of need, and to measure progress over time.

Acquisition Phase

The acquisition phase refers to the time during which an individual is learning a new behavior. In ABA therapy, the acquisition phase is central to teaching new skills or behaviors.

During the acquisition phase, a new skill or behavior is introduced and practiced. Data collected on the rate and accuracy of the skill being acquired informs adjustments to teaching procedures. This data can help to determine whether the teaching method is effective or whether adjustments may be needed.

Once the individual consistently demonstrates the new behavior under a variety of conditions and without prompting, the skill is considered mastered and moves from the acquisition phase to the maintenance phase.

These are just a few of the key terms used in ABA therapy. By familiarizing themselves with these terms, parents and caregivers can better understand the methods and strategies used in ABA therapy, and play a more active role in their child's progress.

Teaching Techniques in ABA Therapy

Understanding the specific teaching techniques used in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy can help parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) better navigate and take an active part in their child's progress. Let's explore the terms Direct Instruction, Discrete Trial Teaching, and Natural Environment Teaching, which are fundamental techniques in ABA therapy.

Direct Instruction

Direct Instruction is a teaching method heavily based on behavioral principles. This technique involves a scripted presentation of materials, individual and group response, error correction, and reinforcement for correct responding. It is a structured approach where the therapist provides clear and direct instructions to the child, followed by immediate feedback. This immediate feedback, often in the form of positive reinforcement, helps the child associate the correct response with a positive outcome, thereby facilitating learning [4].

Discrete Trial Teaching

Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT) is another structured form of teaching that breaks skills into discrete steps and uses a script with clearly defined steps for each trial. DTT uses the ABCs of behavior - the Antecedent (the instruction or cue), Behavior (the child's response), and Consequence (the reinforcement or correction based on the child's response). Each "trial" is a separate attempt to teach a new behavior or reinforce a previously learned behavior. It often occurs at a table with a high rate of presentation of trials.

Natural Environment Teaching

In contrast to the more structured Direct Instruction and DTT, Natural Environment Teaching (NET) is a more flexible and dynamic approach. While DTT typically takes place in a specific setting, such as a table, NET occurs in the natural environment of the child. This method incorporates the child's interests and the natural environment to make learning more relevant and engaging. It also allows the child to practice and apply skills in a functional and practical context, thereby promoting generalization of learned skills.

Each of these teaching techniques has its benefits and is used based on the individual needs and goals of the child. ABA therapists often use a combination of these techniques to ensure a comprehensive and effective learning experience. Understanding these terms and techniques can empower parents to be more involved and supportive in their child's ABA therapy journey.

Strategies in ABA Therapy

Understanding the strategies involved in ABA therapy is crucial to the successful implementation of this approach. These strategies are designed to help children with ASD develop beneficial behaviors and reduce unwanted behaviors. Here, we delve into three prominent strategies: Positive Reinforcement, Antecedent-Based Interventions, and Behavior Intervention Plans.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a key strategy employed in ABA therapy. It operates on the principle that individuals are more likely to repeat valued behaviors when these actions are followed by a reward. This can range from verbal praise, a favorite toy, or a special treat. The goal is to encourage the repeat of the desired behavior, strengthening its future occurrence [1].

A process known as 'pairing' is often used in conjunction with positive reinforcement. This involves associating oneself with a child's favorite items and activities, which can lead to improved outcomes in therapy through repeated positive connections.

Antecedent-Based Interventions

Antecedent-Based Interventions (ABIs) focus on modifying the environment to reduce the likelihood of triggering interfering behaviors. This strategy is aimed at creating an environment with few distractions, thereby helping the child focus on the intended antecedent. Changing certain aspects of the environment can help minimize triggers that might lead to inappropriate behaviors, thereby promoting more desirable actions.

Behavior Intervention Plans

A Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) is a written plan that identifies problem behaviors in children with autism and turns it into a plan of action. The BIP is developed based on the results of a Functional Behavior Assessment, which provides an in-depth understanding of the child's problematic behaviors. This strategy is designed to help children replace problematic behaviors with more positive and appropriate actions, allowing them to better interact with their environment and those around them.

This overview of key strategies in ABA therapy provides valuable insight into the techniques used to help children with ASD. Understanding these techniques can be beneficial for parents and caregivers looking to support their child's progress in therapy. Remember, each child is unique, and it is important to find a strategy that best suits the child's individual needs.

ABA Therapy Process

One of the key components of understanding ABA therapy terms involves getting familiar with the process of ABA therapy. This involves understanding how progress is measured, the use of the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, and how visual representation of progress aids in the therapy process.

Progress Measurement

In Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, the progress of a child is measured by assessing baseline skills, setting long-term goals, and achieving short-term objectives. These objectives could include engaging in conversations and mastering specific skills. The assessment of these factors offers a comprehensive overview of the child's development and the effectiveness of the therapy [7].

Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales

The Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales serve as a norm-referenced assessment tool in ABA therapy. This tool measures a child's progress by comparing their development to typical milestones for their age group. The use of this tool aids in tracking skill generalization and therapy effectiveness. It provides an objective measure of progress in ABA therapy, complementing the more subjective goal-based assessment tools, and helps determine if a child's therapy is effectively changing their developmental trajectory [7].

The Vineland scores should show improvement over time in areas like communication, daily living skills, and socialization. This indicates the positive impact of the therapy on the child's development.

Visual Representation of Progress

Visual representations of a child's progress, derived from tools like the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, create opportunities for behavior therapists and parents to have meaningful discussions and set new goals for the child's continued development in ABA therapy.

These visual representations can take the form of charts or graphs that plot the child's progress over time. They offer a clear and concise way to understand the child's developmental trajectory and the effectiveness of the ABA therapy. These visual tools also serve as a motivator for both the child and the therapy team, as they can visibly see the progress being made [7].

In conclusion, the process of ABA therapy involves measuring progress, utilizing tools like the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, and visually representing the progress to facilitate understanding and discussions. These steps are crucial in ensuring the effectiveness of the therapy and in supporting the child's development.

ABA Therapy Tools and Techniques

As parents navigate through the journey of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy for their children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), understanding the various tools and techniques used in this therapeutic approach can be immensely helpful. This section will delve into three essential ABA therapy terms: video modeling, prompting and fading, and behavior contracts.

Video Modeling

Video modeling is an effective teaching tool in ABA therapy that can be particularly beneficial for visual learners. This technique involves showing children videos where certain skills or emotions are demonstrated. The idea is to help the child understand how to act in different situations by imitating what they see in the videos. This method can be used to teach a variety of skills, ranging from simple tasks to more complex behaviors. It's an engaging, interactive way of teaching that can help children better grasp the concept being taught.

Prompting and Fading

The technique of prompting and fading is another crucial element of ABA therapy. It involves using gentle physical or verbal cues to guide children in learning new skills. These prompts are initially provided to help the child understand and perform a task. As the child becomes more familiar with the task, the prompts are gradually reduced, or "faded", to encourage the child to perform the task independently. This technique is aimed at fostering self-reliance and confidence in children, allowing them to master new skills in a supportive, step-by-step manner [8].

Behavior Contracts

Behavior contracts are often used with older children in ABA therapy. This technique involves defining specific tasks or behaviors that the child needs to perform. Upon successful completion of these tasks or behaviors, the child is rewarded. The rewards can be tokens that accumulate over time and can be exchanged for larger incentives, such as candy or a trip to the movies. This approach can be very effective in motivating children to adopt positive behaviors and achieve therapy goals [8].

Each of these techniques forms a part of the broader ABA therapy approach, which may also include other treatments like Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT) and Natural Environment Teaching (NET) [9]. By understanding these tools and techniques, parents can gain a deeper insight into the therapy process and support their child's progress more effectively.


[1]: https://hiddentalentsaba.com/aba-therapy-techniques/

[2]: https://www.autismspeaks.org/applied-behavior-analysis

[3]: https://behavioral-innovations.com/autism-101/what-is-aba/

[4]: https://allybehavior.com/resources-research/aba-terminology/

[5]: https://masteraba.com/natural-environment-teaching-or-discrete-trial-training/

[6]: https://acornhealth.com/aba-therapy/10-aba-therapy-terms-to-know/

[7]: https://kyocare.com/measuring-applied-behavior-analysis-therapy/

[8]: https://dreambigchildren.com/understanding-aba-techniques-7-strategies-you-need-to-know/

[9]: https://eyaslanding.com/dtt-vs-net-in-aba/