If your child receives Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, chances are you have stumbled across the phrase “ABC”. For those that are unaware of the term or are looking for a simple refresher, ABA uses a preferred method when observing behavior that helps shape future decision making when developing a teaching program for ABA services. The ABC data collection method involves directly observing and recording events that occur surrounding a specific behavior. How do I get better at identifying these surrounding events? Well first, let’s break down the term further.

ABC refers to:
(A) Antecedent – an action or event that occurs immediately prior to a behavior
– Ex: Jane is told to brush her teeth by mom
(B) Behavior – the targeted behavior for change; could be a problem behavior or a skill that needs improvement
– Ex: Jane goes to the bathroom and brushes her teeth)
(C) Consequence – the response that immediately follows the behavior
– Ex: Mom lets Jane play with toys

Additionally, environmental factors contributing to the behavior such as noise level, group size and proximity to other individuals should also be considered. When identifying consequences, multiple events could be occurring simultaneously immediately following the behavior. For example, a response to a child sneezing could be handing them a tissue and stating “bless you”. Both behaviors would be considered consequences if they both immediately followed the behavior (sneezing).

ABC data collection should occur frequently to observe for various patterns in behavior.

*Resource Hub: Indiana University Bloomington Observing Behavior Using A-B-C Data