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ABA Glossary of Terms

ABC Data

A description of the environmental events surrounding behavior. Antecedent (A) refers to what happens before the target behavior occurs. Behavior (B) refers to the target behavior that occurred. Consequence (C) refers to the events that happened immediately after the behavior occurred. Collecting this data helps to inform appropriate interventions for challenging behavior.


The process of withholding reinforcement from a previously reinforced behavior to decrease the probability of the behavior occurring in the future. It is essential to know the function of the behavior for extinction to be an effective strategy. For example, if a learner tantrums to get his/her parents attention, then no attention should be given to the tantrum. Tantrums will eventually fade out. Ethically, it is important to teach an acceptable, functional replacement behavior such as functional communication (i.e. asking for a hug).


A verbal behavior term for a request. This is one of the first verbal skills that is taught.


The process by which a therapist bonds with a learner in order to make themselves highly sought after and reinforcing to the learner. This is a continuous activity, and can take a very short to a very long amount of time.


An added antecedent stimulus that assists in the learner attending to the antecedent. Prompts can be thought of as “hints” for the learner.

Problem behavior/challenging behavior/maladaptive behavior

A consistent behavior that inhibits the learner’s ability to function in their daily setting. These behaviors can vary in intensity, frequency, and between settings.


A consequence that increases the probability of a specific behavior occurring in the future. Reinforcers vary greatly from person to person.

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