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Applied Behavior Analysis Glossary and Key Terms

By August 26, 2021January 14th, 2022No Comments

You may quickly get lost in the world of acronyms and new lingo when learning more about Applied Behavior Analysis. Today we want to share a list of some commonly seen acronyms and definitions. Whether you are a parent, student, technician, or practitioner, we hope that you find this list helpful!



ABA Therapy- Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy

EIBI – Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention


People and Collaborators in the field

BCBA – Board Certified Behavior Analyst

BCaBA – Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst

RBT – Registered Behavior Technician

SLP – Speech Language Pathologist

OT – Occupational Therapist

PT- Physical Therapist


Communication Terms

AAC – Augmentative and Alternative Communication

PECS – Picture Exchange Communication System


Teaching Arrangements

NET– Natural Environment Training is a teaching model used to support teaching and make learning fun for children and others. The main goal is to embed learning opportunities and teaching into things activities that person enjoys or in everyday routines.

DTT – Discrete Trial Training is a method of teaching used for children and others that may not learn as well in a natural environment setting. The training includes giving distinct presentations, response expectations and consequences in each learning trial.

FBI- Fluency-based instruction is a teaching model originating from Precision Teaching that uses time-based trials that increase learning opportunities in shorter periods of time. When the person meets their aim, or goal, it increases the likelihood that fluency has emerged. When fluency is in place, it increases the likelihood that the skill will retain for longer periods of time even if not practiced and be able to be applied in new settings.


Behavior Support

BSP – Behavior Support Plans are a function-based written strategy plan designed by clinicians that include individualized proactive and reactive strategies for behavior targeted for decrease. The proactive strategies are preventative manipulations in the environment that decrease the likelihood a behavior might occur, and the reactive strategies are in place for what to do when it does.

ABC – ABC data collection is an assessment tool used to gather information that support determination of the function of a behavior. This information is then used to guide the proactive and reactive strategies of a behavior support plan. ABC refers to:

  • Antecedent- Some environmental event or action that occur immediately before a behavior
  • Behavior- The behavior that occur
  • Consequence- Some environmental event or action that occur immediately following the behavior


Terminology in Behavior Analysis

Derived from Verbal Behavior

Mand – A request.

This could be a request made by speaking, pointing, exchanging a picture, using sign language, etc.


  • “Drink juice”
  • Exchanging an icon for cookie and then receiving and eating cookie
  • Pointing/reaching for a cracker and upon receiving it, eating it


Tact – A label.

This could be labeling the name, color, shape, size, smell, category etc. of something. These can also be observed across multiple outputs: speaking, picture exchange or a voice output device.


  • “I see an airplane,” when walking down the street and an airplane flies above
  • “I smell popcorn,” as popcorn is being made at the movie theatre
  • “There are all the animals!” during a book about the jungle


Listener response (LR) – The response to a receptive direction.


  • After hearing, “Time to clean up,” the child puts his toy on the shelf
  • While reading a book someone says, “I see the penguin” and the child points to the picture of the penguin.


Listener response by feature, function, or class (LRFFC) – The response to a receptive direction that includes a feature/function/class.


  • “Do you see the one with wheels?” when playing with a train track toy (feature)
  • “Which one can we eat for snack?” when opening the refrigerator for a mealtime (function)
  • “Where are the 3 animals?” during a book (class).


Echoic – Copying a vocal.

This could be copying a sound, word, sentence, etc.


  • During a book the teacher says, “The lion says roar,” and child copies saying, “Roar!”
  • Sometimes it will be cued, for example, the technician says, “This is a cat, say, “cat,”” and the child says, “cat.”


Imitation – Copying a movement.

This could be a gross or fine motor movement; it could also be just 1 action, or a string of actions sequenced together.


  • A peer pushes in his chair, then Johnny pushes in his chair
  • If a child copies their peer in a morning routine by hanging up coat, backpack and sitting on a carpet square.
  • When first learning imitation, it may also be cued with a direction. For example, while singing “the head shoulders knees and toes,” the teacher says, “Try this!” (While touching their knees), Johnny then follows and touches his knees.


Intraverbal – Making a comment, answering a question, or filling in a statement.

These can also be observed across multiple outputs: speaking, picture exchange or a voice output device.


  • A parent says, “I’m running to the store” and a child responds, “I want to come!”
  • During a book when learning about animals and a teacher says, “What does the cat say?” and the student says, “Meow!”
  • While singing a song and a parent says, “the itsy bitsy…” and the child says, “spider.”


Visual Performance (VP) or Visual Performance Skills (VPS) – Matching, sorting, or sequencing.

This involves the ability to visually put things that go together or make up patterns.


  • This could be matching identical or nonidentical items/pictures to each other (e.g., dog to dog or shoes to socks)
  • Sequencing short stories (3 pictures that go through how to build a snowman)
  • Completing a pattern (red block, blue block, red block, and child puts another red block).
  • Puzzles are a great way the emphasize these learning opportunities and grow as skills are learned (inset puzzles, jigsaw, and so on)


Textual – Reading text.

This does not necessarily mean that the child understands what it is they are reading.


  • A child reads a page in a book
  • Student reads their name written in chalk
  • While driving and seeing a stop sign, child reads sign and says, “stop!”


Transcription – Writing or spelling what is spoken or heard.


  • During a spelling test, teacher says “cat” and child writes, cat.
  • This could also be cued with a direction: Teacher says, “Write ‘blue.'” Student writes, blue.


Reinforcement – A consequence that occurs immediately following a behavior that increases or maintains the number of times that behavior may occur.

Reinforcement is not always a ‘positive’ consequence, you may accidentally reinforce a behavior with an intended consequence if the behavior is maintained by that function.


  • Child says, “cookie” and you give them a cookie. Now when they walk into the kitchen, they frequently say, “cookie”
  • Child bites their parent and the parent says, “you stop that right now.” Now when the child experiences a deprivation in their parent’s attention they go and bite them. (a “not positive” example)
  • When asked to get dressed in the morning, a child screams until 5-minutes before it is time to leave and so the caretaker dresses them. Now, when asked to get dressed, the child screams until the caretaker dresses them.


Pairing– We use pairing to refer to the process of pairing a person or toy with reinforcement to help build rapport and/or potentially expand the list of preferred people and things for the child.


  • A behavior technician acts silly, makes activities better and provides physical and gross motor play opportunities to pair themselves with fun and stimulating activities
  • Following the child stacking blocks, the behavior technician hands the child a car and makes a crash sound when the child knocks the blocks over. This pairs the act of “building blocks” with fun and silly effects.