Beyond the B.A.S.I.C.S. Blog

Lesson of the Month: ABCs of Behavior

June 6, 2011


The “ABC’s” (Antecedents, Behaviors and Consequences)

      -A Antecedents are the events that happen before a behavior occurs

     -B Behavior is an observable and measurable thing a person does

     -C Consequences are the events that happen to the client immediately following the behavior



-What is Behavior?

-Anything we do or say

  • examples: walking, talking, eating, sleeping, etc

-Behaviors are all done for a reason


-Defining Behaviors

-In order to change behaviors they MUST be well defined

-Good definitions break behaviors down small, clear parts.

Bad definition: Bobby throws a fit when he is mad.

Good definition: Bobby sits dawn on the floor, kicks his legs, and screams when I say “no ” to him.

-Good definitions of behavior are important so we can measure the behavior.


-Measuring Behaviors

-Measuring behaviors allows us to determine whether or not a behavior is increasing, decreasing or staying the same.


-What is an antecedent?

-An antecedent is the event that happens IMMEDIATELY before  a  behavior

-Why is the antecedent important?

-It allows you to predict when the behavior may occur

-By changing the antecedents, you can change the behavior

-A SETTING EVENT is something that makes an antecedent more likely to cause a behavior



-What are Consequences?

-Consequences are events that follow a behavior.

– Reinforcement: Increases the probability that a behavior .                    will  occur again

Punishment: Decreases the probability that a behavior .                         will occur again

Neutral: does not effect the behavior


-People engage in behaviors for 4 reasons





-Reinforcement works!!!!

-Punishment is not preferred

-I have eliminated aggression without punishment

-It is typically ineffective to yell, berate, or criticize a student (often .             reinforcing)

-It is not best practices to use physical punishment on a child

By looking at antecedents and consequences, we can increase positive behaviors and decrease negative behaviors


Changing the Behavior

-Change the antecedent

-Is the task too difficult?

-Is the environment overstimulating?

-Is the environment understimulating (boring)?

-Is the child hungry? Tired? Sick?

-Child Attention

-Make sure instruction is clear, uninterrupted and child is paying attention.


-Maintenance Tasks

  • Make sure to include tasks the child has already learned (maintenance tasks) when teaching new skills.

-This increases motivation, decreases frustration


-Shared Control

-Child’s choice (within reason) increases motivation

-Teach the student an appropriate way to get their need met

-Skills to be taught may include: Communication (verbal, non-verbal), self-help skills, play skills, academic skills underlying more complex skills

-Reinforce these behaviors whenever you see them!!!!

Contingent: The therapist should give reinforcement right away .      and only when the child engages in the appropriate behavior.

Reinforce Attempts: Any goal directed attempt should be .            .      reinforced.

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