Springtide’s Guide to ABA: Terms to Know

Here at Springtide, our integrative approach to autism treatment will introduce you and your child to new terms, acronyms, and phrases. We have compiled a list of some of the most common words and phrases that you may encounter when your child participates in ABA therapy.


ABA

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a scientific discipline that uses the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors. ABA is considered to be the gold standard of treatment for children with autism. The goals of ABA therapy programs are to increase communication skills, enhance attention and focus, and encourage independence.

ADOS

The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) is a tool that is used to diagnose and assess autism spectrum disorder. It is composed of a series of observation tasks designed to help determine a child’s social and communication skills. The protocol includes both structured and semi-structured tasks.

ASD

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by difficulties with social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. Previously known as an autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder, ASD is also sometimes called autism.

BCBA

Board-certified behavior analysts(BCBAs) are professionals who have met the requirements set by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). These requirements include having a college degree, completing an approved behavior analyst training program, and passing a certification exam. BCBAs work with children who have autism spectrum conditions to help them learn new skills and reach new milestones.

BHCOE

The Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE) accreditation is awarded to organizations that have met or exceeded the standards established by experts in the field of ABA. Programs that have received the BHCOE accreditation are held to a high level of accountability and are regularly assessed to ensure that they are meeting standards for clinical and operational quality.

DDT

Discrete trial training (DTT) is a teaching method that uses ABA principles. It is a very structured teaching method that involves breaking down tasks into small, individual steps. DTT is often used to teach children with autism spectrum conditions how to perform specific tasks or skills.

DIR

The developmental, individual differences, and relationship-based approach (DIR) is a framework that takes into consideration each child’s individual challenges and strengths when diagnosing and treating ASD.

DSM

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association that contains a classification of mental disorders and provides information about how to diagnose them.

EIBI

Early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) is a type of treatment for ASD that is designed to help very young children learn new skills and behaviors. Oftentimes, children treated are younger than five.

FBA

A functional behavior assessment (FBA) is a process used to determine why a child is engaging in a specific behavior. It involves observing the behavior and interviewing the child who engages in the behavior, as well as any family members or caregivers who may be affected by it. The goal of an FBA is to identify a behavior’s function so that a treatment plan can be designed to address it.

IEP

An individual education plan (IEP) is a document that outlines the specific educational goals and services that will be provided to a child affected by ASD. The IEP is reviewed and updated periodically, often every year. It is developed in collaboration with the child, parents, teachers, and other professionals who are involved in the student’s care.

OT

An occupational therapist (OT) is a healthcare professional who helps children with physical, mental, or developmental disabilities achieve their fullest potential in everyday life. In autism treatment, OTs help children with daily activities, like:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Grooming
  • Communication

PECS

The picture exchange communication system (PECS) is a system used to help children with autism spectrum conditions and other developmental disabilities communicate. It involves teaching the child to give their therapist a picture of what he or she wants, and the therapist obliges with what the child asks for in the picture. This method allows children to communicate through images, which can be easier for them than words.

PRT

Pivotal response training (PRT) is a behavioral intervention that is used to improve communication and behavior in children with ASD. In this treatment, your child’s therapist focuses on pivotal areas, such as motivation, response to cues, self-management, and initiation of social interactions.

SI

Sensory integration (SI) is the process by which the brain processes sensory information, like sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Sensory integration helps us to understand and interact with the world around us.

RBT

A Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) is a professional who has been certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). They work under the guidance of a behavior analyst to help implement behavior modification techniques to improve a child’s problem behaviors.

SIB

Self-injurious behavior (SIB) is a type of behavior that is harmful to oneself and can include things like hitting oneself or pulling out their hair. SIB can be a sign of emotional distress and can be very dangerous.

SLP

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) is a healthcare professional who evaluates, diagnoses, and treats speech and language disorders. SLPs work with children who have autism either one-on-one or in groups to help them improve their communication skills. They may also provide education and support to families and caregivers.

Antecedent

An antecedent is something that happens before a behavior occurs. It can be a stimulus, event, or condition that triggers the behavior. Antecedents are often used in ABA therapy to help identify the cause of a problem behavior so that a treatment plan can be designed to address it.

Baseline

The baseline is the starting point for measuring the effectiveness of treatment. It is the level of behavior observed before treatment is started and allows researchers to measure any changes in the child’s behavior that treatment may cause.

Chaining

In behavior therapy, chaining is a technique used to teach new skills. It involves breaking down the skill into smaller steps and teaching them one at a time. Once the child has mastered each step, the steps are put together to form a complete skill.

Echolalia

Echolalia is a speech disorder characterized by the repetition of words or phrases that have been spoken by someone else. The repetition can be immediate, or it can be delayed, with the child repeating the phrase hours or days after hearing it.

Generalization

Generalization is the process of teaching a child with ASD how to use the skills and behaviors they have learned in different settings from where they learned. For example, if a child learns how to brush their teeth on their own at home, they will also need to learn how to do so in other areas. Generalization refers to the moment when they are able to brush their teeth in a new environment.

High-Functioning Autism

High-functioning autism is a form of ASD that is used to describe children with above-average intelligence and abilities in some academic areas. Children with high-functioning autism may have difficulty with social interaction and communication, but they are able to live relatively independent lives.

Intraverbal Behavior

Intraverbal behavior is communication that takes place within the context of a conversation. It includes answering questions, giving examples, and repeating what the other person has said.

Overstimulated

When a child is overstimulated, it means that they have had too much sensory input, from noises, light, smells, experiences, and activities. An overstimulated child may struggle to focus on tasks and activities and get tired and overwhelmed.

Pairing

Pairing occurs when the ABA therapist bonds with the learner. When pairing is done effectively, it can help improve communication and strengthen the relationship between the instructor and the child, making therapy more successful.

Perseveration

Perseveration is the compulsive tendency to continue with a behavior or task even after the stimulus is no longer present.

Prompt

A prompt is a cue or instruction given to a child to help them complete a task or behavior. There are numerous types of prompts:

  • Physical
  • Gestural
  • Position
  • Model
  • Verbal
  • Symbolic
  • Visual

Reinforcer

A reinforcer is something that is given to a child in order to increase the likelihood that they will engage in a desired behavior. For example, positive reinforcement may be a tangible object or praise and attention.

Sensory Avoiders

A sensory avoider is a child who avoids sensory input at all costs, including loud noises, bright lights, strong smells, and rough textures. Sensory avoiders may respond with hyperactive behaviors to run away from the stimulus that has overwhelmed their senses.

Sensory Seekers

A sensory seeker is a child who has a higher threshold for understanding new information. These children are constantly looking for new and different sensory experiences, like loud noises, strong smells, or chaotic environments.

Shaping

Shaping is a technique used in behavior therapy that involves gradually increasing the difficulty of a task until the desired behavior is achieved. It is often used to teach new skills or behaviors and will usually include encouragement and rewards for a child completing something close to the target behavior.

Target Behavior

A target behavior is a specific skill or behavior that has been selected for change. There may be more than one target behavior identified at any given time, depending on the child’s individual treatment plan.

TEACCH

The TEACCH method is a teaching approach that helps children with ASD to achieve educational and therapeutic goals. This approach focuses on the unique learning needs of children with ASD using a method called “Structured TEACHHing.” In general, this program is applied in a classroom setting to promote learning and motor skills.

Theory of Mind

Theory of mind is the ability to understand that other people have thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that may be different from your own. It is the ability of children to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” Theory of mind is essential for social interactions because it allows children to understand what someone else may be thinking or feeling.

Understimulated

An understimulated child means that the child is not getting enough sensory input, which can lead to problems like:

  • Boredom
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Restlessness

Verbal Behavior

A verbal behavior program is a type of ABA program that helps children with ASD to communicate effectively through words and phrases.

Visual Supports

Visual supports are images or pictures that are used to help a child with ASD understand a task or activity. They can be used to help with:

  • Communication
  • Social interaction
  • Behavioral goals

Since children with ASD are typically visual learners, visual supports can convey information to them in a way that they can understand, rather than spoken language.

BHCOE 3-Year Accreditation CertificateCouncil of Autism Service Providers Member Logo
Springtide Child Development was awarded an Award of Distinction with The Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE) and is a member of The Council of Autism Service Providers (CASP). These awards celebrate exceptional special needs providers that are leading the way in the areas of clinical quality, staff satisfaction, qualifications, and consumer satisfaction.
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