Terms to know

Glossary of Applied Behavior Analysis Terms

There are a lot of terms in the ABA world and it is tough to remember them all. Below is a list of some of the more common terms you may hear when discussing your child’s therapy, treatment, or services for autism diagnosis with a member of our InBloom Team. All of our Glossary of Terms for ABA Therapy is further explained as your child’s individual treatment plan develops. Want to learn more? Check out our Blog Page!


An event, context, or activity occurring just before any type of behavior. For example, you say “clap” and your child claps his hands. In another example, you say “no candy” and your child begins to cry.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy

A therapy based on the science of learning and behavior. By using ABA techniques, you can understand how behavior works, how behavior is affected by the environment, and how learning takes place. The goal of ABA therapy is to increase behaviors that are helpful and decrease behaviors that are harmful or affect learning.


Anything a person says or does that is observable and measurable.

Behavior Intervention Plan

A detailed document created by a BCBA outlining undesired behaviors targeted for intervention. It describes purposes (or functions) those undesired behaviors serve the child and instructions to implement the prescribed proactive, reactive, and replacement strategies to decrease the undesired behavior over time.


An event closely following a behavior impacting the future occurrence of that same behavior. The consequence may either strengthen or weaken the behavior.


In Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), data measures some quantifiable aspect of a behavior. For example, a BCBA counts how many times a child screams (i.e. the frequency) or how long a tantrum lasts (i.e. the duration).


How long a behavior occurs. Duration provides capture of and analysis of data.


How many times a behavior occurs. Frequency provides capture of and analyzes of data.


How long it took from the time you ask your child to start a behavior such as cleaning the room to the time they start cleaning. Latency descriptions help capture and analyze data.


A request, which can be performed using a variety of different responses. For example, some children may mand (request) desired items/activities using vocalizations (words or sounds), while others may exchange a picture or use a gesture to mand.


The process by which a person, thing, setting, or activity becomes associated with something else. For example, in ABA, the therapy team’s primary goal in the beginning of therapy is to pair themselves with all of the items/activities that a child loves so the therapy team also becomes highly preferred.


A type of consequence, any event closely following a behavior that results in the increased likelihood of that behavior occurring again in the future:

  • Conditioned Reinforcement: An item, event, activity, person, stimulus that becomes a “learned” reinforcer because it is associated with other items/events/activities/people/stimuli that are already existing reinforcers. For example, as mentioned in the example of “pairing” above, the child’s therapy team becomes conditioned reinforcers.
  • Positive Reinforcement: The process of adding an event or stimulus during or after a behavior resulting in an increased likelihood of that same behavior occurring in the future. For example, a child exchanges a picture to request tickles, resulting in the child’s mother providing tickles. The tickles are “added” following the request, resulting in increased likelihood of request for tickles in the future.
  • Negative Reinforcement: The process of removing an event or stimulus during or after a behavior resulting in increased likelihood of that same behavior occurring in the future. For example, a child signs “all done” when a non-preferred food is presented, resulting in the caregiver removing the food. The non-preferred food is removed following the sign for “all done,” resulting in increased likelihood of the child signing “all done” to remove something non-preferred in the future.

Providing reinforcement for approximations of a desired behavior or skill and gradually building up the approximations until the full extent of the behavior or skill is achieved. This is used with any behavior or skill, as needed. In one example, a child may initially make the “bah” sound when requesting his favorite ball. When he says “bah,” the ball is provided. Over time, when he is ready, the child is required to say the full word “ball” when requesting it.


A label (name) for an item / activity / person. For example, a child sees a ball and says, “ball.”

Task Analysis

The process in which you break down a larger skill such as hand washing into smaller steps for the child to learn and accomplish. For example, step one would be turning on the water, then wetting your hands, then adding soap to your hands, etc.

Lets get started

Take the next step in your Autism Therapy journey!

We’d love to chat! Here are some things we may ask about:

Whether your child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis.
Your child’s age and challenging behaviors.
Skills you may want your child to work on.