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ABA Glossary

ABA- Applied Behavior Analysis is a well respected science that goes much
farther than Autism. ABA at its core is a way to teach, manage, or reduce
behaviors. Just like the phrase Autism Spectrum Disorders, ABA is an umbrella
term that can cover many specific strategies. Some examples include Incidental
Teaching, Discrete Trial Training, and Verbal Behavior. There are many ways to
do ABA.
ABA Therapist- This is the term I use on my blog to describe anyone who provides
ABA therapy to a child. Technically, a more accurate term would be an ABA tutor,
assistant, provider, etc, however I use the term ABA Therapist.
ABLLS Assessment- Pronounced "A-bulls". An assessment tool created by Drs.
Sundberg & Partington. This tool allows you to assess across 25 varied domains to
get a complete snapshot of a childs functioning level, strengths, and deficits.
Domains include self help skills, gross motor skills, receptive skills, group
instruction, etc.
ABC's of Behavior- Also known as the Three Term Contingency, ABC's of behavior
is a tool used to determine the function of any behavior. The A is for antecedent,
the B is the behavior, and C is the consequence.
Acquisition Task A target that is in the process of being taught. This behavior is
not yet a known skill.
Antecedent- In behavior analytic terms, an antecedent is simply what happened
right before the behavior.
Aspergers Syndrome- Aspergers is a form of Autism, with the main differences
being these children are typically very verbal, have large social deficits, and
have more neurological issues (such as being clumsy). These children often go
undiagnosed until they are older.
Autism Spectrum Disorders- Autism Spectrum refers to a range of conditions
that range in severity including Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), Autism,
and Aspergers Syndrome. Generic term referring to a group of disorders that
share certain essential features including: difficulty with social interactions,
difficulty communicating, and unusual behaviors.
BCBA/BCaBA- This is the board certification required for a person to become a
Behavior Analyst, and it is recognized worldwide. In the field of ABA, this is the
gold standard for professionals. The BCaBA denotes the person is at an associate

level, and must work under a BCBA. BCaBA's usually have less training or
experience, although this isnt always the case.
Behavior - Observable and measurable responses to cues in the environment.
The future frequency of these responses are influenced by the consequences that
follow them.
Bio- Medical Approach- The bio- medical approach to treating Autism is based
on the latest scientific research that shows Autism to have at least some
biological causes, such as heavy metals or an over growth of yeast.
Chaining Used to teach multi-step skills in which the steps involved are defined
and numbered. The steps are defined through task analysis. Can be either done
by backward, forward, or total task analyses.
"Child"- My blog is primarily directed towards people who teach or are a
caregiver for children with Autism, so I tend to use the general term "child"
instead of person, adolescent or individual.
Chronological Age/ Developmental Age- A child's chronological age is their
actual age calculated by when they were born. A developmental age is based on
the child's level of functioning, and their adaptive skills. For example a 7 year old
child diagnosed with Autism could have the developmental age of a 3 year old. A
Pediatrician or Developmental Psychologist can help you determine your child's
developmental age.
Co-Morbidity- This means having multiple diagnoses as the same time, such as a
child being diagnosed with Autism, OCD, and an Anxiety Disorder.
Consequence- In behavior analytic terms, a consequence is simply what happens
after the behavior. Consequences can be good or bad.
Consultant- Describes anyone who creates the treatment/behavioral plans,
trains and supervises staff, and may or may not assist with hiring staff. Typically
this is a BCBA level individual with extensive experience and training in running
an ABA program.
Contained Classroom- A contained, or self -contained, classroom is a classroom
that has only special needs children. These classrooms have a smaller teacher to
student ratio than an inclusive classroom. Typically these classes are taught by
Special Education teachers.
Deprivation An ABA principle which states that the more deprived of a
particular reinforcer, the more powerful that reinforcer will be.

Developmentally Delayed-A child is given a diagnosis of DD when they are not

progressing as they should be and arent meeting developmental milestones such
as crawling, sitting up, talking, etc.
Discrete Trial Training - A specific method of instruction in which a task is
isolated and taught to an individual by repeatedly presenting the same task to
the person.
Discriminative stimulus (SD) - This is the demand or directive given to a child, to
obtain a specific response. This is a technical term that basically means a
demand or instruction you give to the child. Examples of SD's: "Touch red", "Give
me ball", "Touch your nose".
DSM-IV TR- The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is used by a
variety of professionals across the world to diagnoses or treat individuals. The
DSM is basically a handy manual that catalogs all mental conditions, disorders,
and syndromes and explains how to diagnose each one. (As of 5/2013, this
version has been replaced by the DSM-V)
Echoic- This is a VB term. An echoic is being able to vocally imitate upon
Echolalia- This is when a child "echoes" or imitates things they hear (can be
words or sounds). Echolalia can be immediate or delayed.
Elopement- Elopement is when a child wanders away from a person, or an area
they are supposed to stay in. This could be a child wandering away from the
house, or a child repeatedly running away from the table during a session.
Expressive- Expressive means speaker behavior, and refers to tasks that require a
vocal response such as singing or talking.
Extinction The withholding of reinforcement for a previously reinforced
behavior, resulting in reduction of that behavior.
Extinction burst - The increase in frequency and/or intensity of behavior in the
early stages of extinction.
FBA- Functional Behavior Analysis. This is the process by which all behavioral
interventions are created. An FBA is intended to determine the function (or the
reason) for a behavior, and then create an intervention based on that function. A
FunctionalAnalysis involves manipulating the environment to understand the

behavior, while a Functional Behavior Assessment involves things like

observation, interview, and collecting ABC data.
Fine Motor Skills - These are the activities that require the coordination of the
smaller muscle of the body, especially those of the hand.
Floortime- Floortime is a treatment method for Autism that focuses on child
-led, play focused activities using a naturalistic approach. Floortime is not a type
of ABA due to not being empirically supported.
Generalization - Term used to describe the ability to learn a skill in one situation
and be able to apply it flexibly to other similar but different situations.
GFCF Diet- GFCF stands for Gluten free and Casein free. Gluten is wheat, and
Casein is dairy. GFCF diets are not empirically supported to be effective.
Gross Motor Skills - These are the activities we do using our larger muscle
groups; like sitting, walking & jumping.
High Functioning/Low Functioning- Children on the Spectrum are sometimes
categorized according to their functioning level, or the magnitude of their
deficits. A high functioning child usually is fine academically, verbal, but has
social difficulties. A low functioning child would have significant deficits and
difficulties across all areas including language, academics, adaptive, etc. Some
adults with Autism find the term "high or low functioning" to be offensive.
HOH Prompting- Hand over hand prompting is a physical prompt where you place
your hands over the child's hand to get them to comply with a demand or
Hypersensitivity - Acute reaction to sensory input (i.e. overly sensitive).
Hyposensitivity - Little or no reaction to sensory input (i.e. under-sensitive).
IEP- An Individual Education Plan is the individualized curriculum plan that school
age children have if they are in special education. An IEP is a legal document,
and the IEP process should be taken very seriously and with much consideration
for the child's future. If the child is under 3 years old and receiving services they
may have an IFSP, which is an Individual Family Services Plan.
Inclusive Classroom- An inclusive classroom is a classroom with both special
needs and typical children learning together. Typically these are taught by
General Education teachers.

Intervention- This is the plan of action or the strategy you will use to change a
behavior. An example of an intervention is teaching a child to use a card to
request help instead of tantrumming.
Intraverbal- This is a VB term. An intraverbal is being able to label or describe an
item without any stimuli present. For example if a child can answer the question
"How old are you", that is an intraverbal.
Lead Therapist-This is the term I use on my blog to describe anyone who helps
manage the ABA program, and supervises the ABA Therapists while also reporting
to the Consultant. Lead Therapists are also sometimes called Supervising
Therapists, Senior Therapists, or Case Managers.
Loovas therapy- ABA is sometimes referred to as Loovas therapy, after Dr Ivar
Loovas who conducted groundbreaking studies on Autism & ABA in the 1950's
which were critical to the development of this field.
Main Stream- To mainstream a child means that they can be successfully placed
in a typical classroom, as opposed to a special education classroom. Main
streaming is usually a long term goal for any child who is placed in special
Mand- This is a VB term. A mand is basically a "demand". This is being able to
verbally request something that one wants.
Mental Retardation (MR) - A mental disorder characterized by significantly
under-average general intellectual functioning associated with impairments in
adaptive behavior. It is classified on the basis of severity as mild, moderate,
severe, and profound.
Mouthing- This refers to when a child inappropriately places items/toys, etc in
their mouth. Depending on the child, licking items could also be considered
NET- Natural Environment Teaching is a type of ABA where learning occurs
incidentally in the natural environment, such as at the bust stop, in the tub, or
during dinner.
Normal vs Typical- Many people use the word "normal" when distinguishing
between children with Autism, and children who do not have Autism. I dont like
to use the word "normal", and use "typical/typically developing" instead.

NT- This stands for Neuro-Typical, and is a term used by many individuals with
Autism to describe people who do not have Autism. It basically refers to someone
who does not have neurological difficulties.
"Parents" vs "Professionals"- I use these terms on my blog to distinguish between
the two primary readers of my blog. "Professional" includes anyone who works
with individuals with Autism, such as ABA Therapists, OT's, SLP's, or teachers.
"Parent" includes anyone who cares for an individual with Autism, such as
biological parents, adoptive parents, family members, foster parents, etc. These
are all-inclusive terms, and not intended to exclude anyone.
PDD- Pervasive Developmental Disorder was a form of Autism. Despite popular
opinion, PDD is not a way for doctors to "avoid giving a diagnosis of Autism.
Basically, a diagnosis of PDD is a doctors way of telling you "Your child is on the
spectrum somewhere, but they aren't fitting neatly into any one box".
Perseverative Behavior - Displaying excessively repetitive and stereotypical
behaviors, such as asking for a pretzel 18 times in 5 minutes or repeating a line
from a commercial over and over again.
Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): PECS is a communication
system for functionally non-verbal individuals. The approach is designed to help
young children with autism learn to initiate requests and communicate their
needs. PECS is an ABA-based method.
Prompt - This form of assistance or cue given to help your child compete a task.
There are several types of prompts: physical prompt, gestural prompt, position
prompt, model prompt, verbal prompt, symbolic prompt, and visual prompt.
Prompt Dependent- Prompt dependency is when an individual has become
reliant on being assisted with a task, and stops attempting to do the task
independently. Or it could be a child who has been prompted to do a task a
certain way so many times, that it is very difficult for them to change the way
they complete the task.
Punisher- A punisher is something used to motivate a child not to complete a
task or not to engage in a behavior. Punishers can be tangible, social, physical,
etc. In behavior analytic terms, to be considered a punisher the target behavior
must decrease.
Receptive- Receptive is listener behavior, and refers to tasks that require a
nonvocal action or motor response such as touch, give, or point.

Recovered - The word "recovered" is often used instead of words like "cured" or
"fixed". A child who is recovered has overcome the disabling effects of an Autism
diagnosis. If placed in a group of their peers, they are indistinguishable socioemotionally, academically, and behaviorally.
Reinforcer- A reinforcer is something used to motivate a child to complete a
task, and as a reward for said task. Reinforcement can be tangible (toy), social
(praise), physical (hugs, kisses), etc. In behavior analytic terms, to be considered
a reinforcer the likelihood of future occurrence of the target behavior must
Satiation - When a reinforcer loses its effectiveness due to overuse.
Scripting- This is when a child engages in a verbal stim where they repeat, or
"script", phrases or entire sections of a TV show, movie, commercial, etc. Can
also be called self-talk.
Scrolling- This is when a child responds to a demand by either receptively or
expressively linking several responses together. For example, if the child is shown
a photo of a firefighter and asked "Who is this?" the child responds by saying
Self injurious behavior (SIB) - Self-injurious behaviors are actions that the child
performs that result in physical injury to the childs own body. Typical forms of
self-injurious behavior include: hitting oneself with hands or other body parts,
head-banging, biting oneself, picking at skin or sores, scratching or rubbing
oneself repeatedly.
Self stimulatory behavior (SSB) Also referred to as Stimming. These are selfinitiated, repetitive movements (e.g. rocking, flapping, spinning, finger-flicking,
and/or unusual manipulation of inanimate objects). These are repetitive
behaviors that children with Autism may engage in for sensory purposes, and
personal enjoyment. They are called SELF stimulatory because the child does not
need anyone to engage with them to enjoy these behaviors.

Sensory Integration- Sensory integration refers to different strategies or

techniques used to meet, raise, or lower internal sensory needs such as weighted
vests, sensory diets, or brushing procedures. Sensory integration is not
empirically supported.
Shadow- Also called a School Facilitator; a Shadow is someone who goes into the
classroom with a child and helps that child integrate fully into the classroom

SLP/OT/PT- Speech therapist (also referred to as ST), Occupational Therapist,

Physical Therapist. These are professionals who often work with children with
Autism to provide therapy services related to speech, movement, developmental
goals, coordination, and functional communication. It isn't uncommon for these
professionals (including ABA professionals) to overlap in the services they
provide, such as teaching motor skills or visual performance skills.
Tact- This is a VB term. A tact is being able to label or describe an item with
stimuli being present. For example, a child can tact if they can label the color of
a ball if the ball is present.
Target Behavior- This is the behavior of interest you are trying to increase, or
decrease. You may have multiple target behaviors you are working on or just one.
Task reduction Reducing the demands put upon the individual in an effort to
avoid or decrease frustration levels.
Transitions - May refer to changes from one activity or setting to another such as
from an early childhood program to school or from a preferred play activity to a
work activity. Transitions are typically very difficult for a child with ASD.
VB- VB stands for Verbal Behavior. Verbal Behavior is a type of ABA based on the
works of B.F. Skinner that focuses on understanding language as a behavior.
VB-MAPP Assessment- An assessment tool created by Dr. Sundberg. This tool
focuses on verbal assessment to get a complete snapshot of verbal abilities,
strengths, and deficits. Domains include manding, intraverbals, echoics, etc.
Verbal vs Non Verbal- When people use these terms they typically mean if a
child can talk or not. Babbling/sounds are not usually considered "verbal", but
words are. The behavior analytic term is "non vocal", not non verbal.
VI- Variable interval is a way of describing a schedule of reinforcement. If the
child has a VI of 2-3 minutes, that means that between every 2 and 3 minutes the
child contacts reinforcement.

VR- Variable ratio is a way of describing a schedule of reinforcement. If the child

has a VR of 4-6, that means that between every 4th and 6th response the child
contacts reinforcement.