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Glossary of ABA terms

There is a fair bit of jargon in the ABA world, mainly because it's a science and words are being used in precise, technical ways. This is a plain-English parent guide, without going into too much detail, and was compiled with the help of Victoria Meader BCBA.

ABA - Applied Behaviour Analysis (of course!). "Applied" here relates to behaviour that is socially significant. "Behaviour" from an ABA perspective is anything that we do (including speaking, thinking, eating, reading etc). "Analysis" refers to the fact that ABA is data driven. Progress is measured and interventions adjusted accordingly. 

ABCs - Antecedent, Behaviour, Consequence. What happens before a behaviour, the behaviour, what happens after. Used to analyse function of behaviour e.g. why someone is doing it. 

ABLLS - A curriculum used in ABA for assessing a child's progess. Stands for The Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills. 

Antecedent - What comes before a behaviour. Eg Jane always reaches for a choc after turning on the TV (TV is antecedent to choc-eating behaviour).

Aversive - Something making a behaviour less likely to happen again.

BACB - Behavior Analyst Certification Board. This is the international credentialling organisation which governs the BCBA, BCaBA and RBT qualifications. Based in the US but accredits courses worldwide.

BCBA - Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (high level of ABA professional, oversees programmes, supervises BCaBAs and RBTs).

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 (supervises programme under guidance of BCBA or BCBA-D, supervises RBTs).

CABAS - This is a form of ABA developed for schools especially Jigsaw School in the UK. Stands for the Comprehensive Application of Behaviour Analysis to Schooling. 

DTT - 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.

EIBI - Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention - pre school intensive ABA, can be 20-40 hours a week.  

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

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.

NET - Natural environment training (as opposed to tabletop DTT) eg. practising labelling fruits in the supermarket or joining in with children at a club

PBS - Positive Behaviour Support. Yet another branch of ABA, much-used in the UK by the NHS in adult settings and tends to be more about removing the antecedents and a bit less about teaching new skills (though proper PBS should be BCBA-led and about whatever segment of ABA is best).

PRT - Pivotal Response Treatment, also known as Pivotal Response Therapy and Pivotal Response Training: a form of ABA and childhood developmental goals, centring on pivotal clusters of skills. Also with lots of research behind it.

Pairing - What an ABA tutor does at the start of a programme, pairing themselves with highly motivating things (e.g. playing games, using toys that the child particularly likes) so that the tutor becomes associated with having fun.

RBT - Registered Behaviour Technician (tutor qualification, relatively new in the UK).

Reinforcement - Something that makes a behaviour more likely to happen again. This can be something added to the setting, such as social praise, tickles or a favourite toy, or something removed.

Tact - Naming or labelling something that you see, hear, feel, smell or taste (e.g. saying "that's a cat" when you see a cat or "I smell popcorn"). Comes from the word conTACT. "Tacting" is the associated verb.

VB - Verbal Behaviour is a form of ABA which uses BF Skinner's analysis of verbal behaviour to teach mands, tacts etc. VB doesn't always have to be vocal. ABA/VB programmes have a specific focus on teaching each of the verbal operants.

VB-MAPP - This is the curriculum used under VB programmes, with lots of tasks and targets to be filled in on the VB-MAPP document as child learns skills. Stands for Verbal Behaviour Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP).

Verbal operants - These are different types of language (e.g. mand - saying "milk" when you want some milk or tact - saying "milk" when you see a carton of milk).

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