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The ABCs of ABA Therapy

The ABCs of ABA Therapy connections therapy center

ABA practitioners use the ABCs of ABA therapy to design and implement treatments.

If your child receives Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, you may have heard the phrase “ABC.” ABA uses a preferred method when observing behavior to shape future decision-making. The ABC data collection method directly observes and records events surrounding a specific behavior. ABA practitioners use the ABCs of ABA to design and implement these treatments. But what are the ABCs? Let’s break down the term further.

A is for Antecedent

An antecedent is anything that changes or occurs in the environment before a behavior. When BCBAs observe a behavior of interest, measuring it and determining what event came before it is important. For example, if a student engages in aggression, their therapist will record that the child received a worksheet before the behavior. In this example, if most instances of aggression are preceded by demands being placed, BCBAs can use this information to develop interventions to decrease aggression. Antecedents can be either explicit or implicit. Giving a demand or instructions is an explicit antecedent. You’re telling the person precisely what to do. However, an implicit antecedent can be something like the layout or temperature of a space.

B is for Behavior

The B in A-B-C represents the behavior. Behavior is anything that a living organism does. Meaning behaviors are the actions or inactions the person takes after the antecedent. Behaviors must be observable and measurable. The behavior is what therapists are trying to decrease or increase. In the previous example, aggression would be the specific behavior. 

C is for Consequence

A consequence refers to the event that occurs following the behavior of interest. The word “consequence” can have negative connotations and sometimes is used interchangeably with punishment. However, this is incorrect because a consequence is what happens after the behavior, and it can be positive or negative. If, after the student displayed aggression and the teacher removed the worksheet, the removal of the worksheet would be the consequence. Consequences can reinforce behavior, so ABA therapy focuses on finding the proper consequences to reinforce functional behaviors.

Positive and Negative Consequences

A tricky thing in ABA is the use of the words positive and negative. Usually, positive implies good, while negative implies bad. In ABA, a consequence is positive when something is added to the environment. Alternatively, when a consequence is negative, something is removed from the environment. As a result, people often confuse the meanings when talking about positive and negative reinforcers or punishers.


The Connections Therapy Center

The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (301) 577-4333. Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

This entry was posted on Friday, May 19th, 2023 at 9:28 am . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Connections Therapy Center

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  • 4451 Parliament Place, Suite A
    Lanham, MD 20706
  • 301-577-4333
  • 301-618-0025

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    Connections Therapy Center
    4451 Parliament Place, Suite A Lanham, Maryland 20706
    Phone: 301-577-4333