Applied Behaviour Analysis is an established science that goes MUCH farther than Autism. If all you know of ABA is a treatment for young children with Autism, I highly recommend you further your reading and study of the field. ABA at its core is a way to teach, manage, or reduce behaviours. ABA is an umbrella term that can cover many specific and unique strategies. Some examples include Incidental Teaching, Discrete Trial Training, and Verbal Behaviour. There are many ways to implement or carry out ABA.

ABA therapist

Describes a professional who provides ABA therapy to a learner/student, in a direct staff role. Other similar terms can include ABA tutor, ABA technician, registered behaviour technician. This person works directly with your child usually 1:1 or in small groups and is directed by the BCBA/Consultant.

ABCs ABC- antecedent, behaviour and consequence (ABC data is important to establish patterns of behaviour so that a plan of action is put in place). ABC's of behaviour is a tool used to determine the function of any behaviour (why a behaviour is happening) the A is for antecedent (what happens before the behaviour occurs), the B is the actual behaviour, and C is the consequence (what happens after).
Antecedent In behaviour analytic terms, an antecedent is simply what happened right before the behaviour.
BCBA Board Certified Behaviour Analyst This is the board certification required for a person to become a Behaviour Analyst, and it is recognised worldwide. BCBAs are recognised as being properly authorised to oversee, manage, or supervise ABA programs, they oversee your ABA tutor.
BCBA-D Board Certified Behaviour Analyst - Doctoral (BCBAs with doctoral training or a PhD in behavioural analysis; functions in the same capacity as BCBAs).
BCaBA Board Certified Assistant Behaviour Analyst 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 isn’t always the case.


In behaviour analytic terms, a consequence is simply what happens after the behaviour. Consequences can be good or bad (or nothing).


Discrete trial training (DTT) is a method of teaching in simplified and structured steps. Instead of teaching an entire skill in one go, the skill is broken down and "built-up" using discrete trials that teach each step one at a time with reinforcement for correct answers.


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 catalogues all mental conditions, disorders, and syndromes and explains how to diagnose each one. It is regularly updated, and professionals reference the newest version when discussing, explaining, or understanding diagnoses.


This is a Verbal Behaviour term. An echoic is being able to vocally imitate upon request.


"Echoing" or imitating what is heard, can be immediate or delayed. E.g. if you say to the learner "Want to go outside?" and they respond, "Go outside?", that is echolalia. Many individuals with Autism exhibit echolalia but engaging in echolalia does not automatically mean someone has Autism.


Elopement is wandering, or running away, from an area the person is not supposed to leave.

ESDM Early Start Denver Model (a form of ABA combined with childhood developmental curriculum, has been well and extensively researched).


Expressive means speaker behaviour and refers to tasks that require a vocal response such as singing or talking.


The withholding of reinforcement for a previously reinforced behaviour, resulting in reduction of that behaviour.

Extinction burst

The increase in frequency and/or intensity of behaviour in the early stages of extinction.


Functional Behaviour Assessment. This is the process by which behavioural interventions are created. An FBA is intended to determine the function (or the reason) for a behaviour, and then create an intervention based on that function. A Functional Analysis (FA) involves manipulating the environment to understand the behaviour, while a Functional Behaviour Assessment involves things like observation, interview, and collecting ABC data.

Fine Motor Skills

These are the activities that require the coordination and movement of the smaller muscles of the body, especially those of the hand.


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.

Gross Motor Skills

These are the activities we do using our larger muscle groups; like sitting, walking & jumping.


Acute reaction to sensory input (i.e. overly sensitive).


Little or no reaction to sensory input (i.e. under-sensitive).


An Individual Education Plan is the individualized curriculum plan.


This is the plan of action or the strategy you will use to support the child/young person. An example of an intervention is teaching a learner to use a card to request help instead of screaming.


This is a Verbal Behaviour term. Basically, intraverbals are building blocks to conversation skills as its the ability to discuss, describe, or answer a question about something that isn't physically present. Like if someone asks you "What did you do on your vacation last spring?".

Main Stream

To mainstream a learner means that they can be successfully placed in a typical classroom, as opposed to a special education classroom. It also means they can perform grade level work, and have play, adaptive, motor, and cognitive abilities comparable to typically developing peers....to put it another way, they can be successful across multiple environments that are not the most restricted environments.


This is a Verbal Behaviour term. A mand is basically a " deMAND". This is being able to request something that one wants or needs.


This refers to when inappropriately placing items/toys, etc. in the mouth. Depending on the individual, licking items could also be considered mouthing.

MSc Currently five UK universities offer a Masters degree in ABA, this might or might not be followed by the BCBA. MScs are good at ABA, these are serious professionals. The five are: University of Kent, Uni of South Wales, Queen's Uni, Belfast, Ulster Uni, and Bangor university.
Mand Meaning a request, from deMAND or comMAND. Could be a requesting word or non-verbal communication (e.g. saying "juice" or signing juice when this drink is desired). "Manding" is the associated verb. Many VB programmes start with mand training.

Natural Environment Training - where learning occurs incidentally and often playfully in natural environments, such as a local playground, or during dinner or maybe practising labelling fruits in the supermarket.


Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS):   Developed by a Behaviour Analyst and Speech and Language Therapist PECS is a form of augmentative and alternative communication. It is typically used as an aid in communication for children with autism and other special needs. Learners are taught to exchange single pictures for items or activities they really want.

PBS Positive behaviour support( PBS) is 'a person centred framework for providing long-term supportto people with a learning disability, and/or autism, including those with mental health conditions, who have, or may be at risk of developing, behavioursthat challenge.


A form of assistance or cue given to help the learner compete a task and to increase accurate responding. There are several types of prompts: physical prompt, gestural prompt, position prompt, model prompt, verbal prompt, symbolic prompt, and visual prompt, and many more.

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 learner 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.


Pivotal Response Teaching (PRT) is an approach to teaching individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that involves instruction in areas that, when targeted, result in progress in numerous related areas. PRT is based on applied behaviour analysis including collecting data as a basis for decision-making and strategy implementation.


Receptive is listener behaviour and refers to tasks that require a non-vocal action or motor response such as touch, give, or point.


A reinforcer is something used to motivate a learner to complete a task or engage in a behaviour. Reinforcement can be tangible (toy), social (praise), physical (hugs, kisses), etc. In behaviour analytic terms, to be considered a reinforcer the likelihood of future occurrence of the target behaviour must increase. Remember that bribery (which isn't effective) is given before the behaviour occurs, reinforcement is given after the behaviour occurs and is completely different.


Registered Behaviour Technician; a tutor cannot be classes as a registered behaviour technician unless they have completed the 40hr RBT training.

Self-injurious behaviour (SIB)

Self-injurious behaviours are actions that an individual performs that result in physical injury to the body. Typical forms of self-injurious behaviour may include, hitting oneself with hands or other body parts, head-banging, biting oneself, picking at skin or sores, etc.

Stereotypic/Repetitive behaviours

Often referred to as “Stimming” or "Stims". These are self-initiated, often repetitive movements (e.g. rocking, vocalizations, flapping, spinning, finger-flicking, jumping etc for some individuals with Autism these behaviours can occur at very high frequencies, sometimes 100+ times per day. Individuals with Autism may engage in these behaviours for automatic reinforcement purposes, but that isn't always the case (function can vary), which is why the blanket term of "self-stimulatory behaviour/stimming" can be technically incorrect.


Is a School Facilitator/ ABA tutor, a Shadow is someone who goes into the classroom with a child and helps that child integrate fully into the classroom environment. They are called a shadow as they step in when needed to support the learner and move back when not required, so the tutor is not velcro’d to the child and promotes independence


Naming or labelling something that is present, that you see, hear, feel, smell or taste (e.g. saying "that's a dog" when the dog is present or "I smell popcorn" if popcorn is present. It comes from the word conTACT. "Tacting" is the associated verb.

Target Behaviour

This is the behaviour of interest you are trying to increase or decrease. There may be multiple target behaviours being addressed simultaneously, as part of a comprehensive plan.

Task reduction

Reducing the demands put upon the individual in an effort to avoid or decrease frustration levels.


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 individuals with ASC, particularly unplanned or abrupt transitions.


VB stands for Verbal Behaviour. Verbal Behaviour is a type of ABA based on the works of B.F. Skinner that focuses on understanding and teaching language as a behaviour and based on its function.

VB-MAPP assessment

An assessment and curriculum tool created by Dr. Sundberg. This tool focuses on verbal/language assessment to get a complete snapshot of verbal abilities, strengths, and deficits. Domains include manding, intraverbals, echoics, etc. It stands for ‘Verbal Behaviour Milestones Assessment and Placement Program’ (VB-MAPP).

Verbal vs Vocal

When people use these terms they typically mean a learner can talk to communicate. However, the behaviour analytic term for spoken communication is "vocal", not verbal. "Verbal" can be any form of communication such as sign language or gesturing, while "Vocal" is speech/vocalizations used to communicate.