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Basic ABA Concepts - ABA Parent Training Topic Idea

Basic ABA Concepts - ABA Parent Training Topic Idea

In applied behavior analysis parent training services, it is helpful to review basic concepts of the field of ABA with parents. This will help them to have a better understanding of ABA and help them to learn more about the services their child is receiving as well as how to utilize ABA strategies at home.

To introduce ABA concepts to parents of children with autism spectrum disorder, you may want to provide an easy to understand definition of the concept and also provide examples of how the concept is used with their child in ABA or how the parent could use the concept in the home. You could also help the child learn about the concept by demonstrating the concept in a real-life or role-play situation.

ABA concepts can apply to any type of animal or human behavior. This is an idea that can be helpful to share with parents that you work with. It is recommended that behavior analysts inform parents that ABA concepts can be beneficial to everyone and that ABA has been proven as an evidence-based practice for children with autism spectrum disorder.

Overview of Basic Concepts in ABA

Positive Reinforcement

  • Positive reinforcement is when a stimulus occurs immediately after a behavior and then that behavior happens more often in the future.

  • Example: A child asks his father for some candy multiple times. The father gives in and lets the child have the candy. If asking repeatedly for candy (or other desired items) happens more often in the future, then this is an example of positive reinforcement.

Negative Reinforcement

  • Negative reinforcement is when a stimulus is removed immediately following a behavior and then that behavior happens more often in the future.

  • Example: In the previous example, negative reinforcement occurs for the father if he gives in more often as a result of the child’s repeated asking for a preferred item.

DRA (Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behaviors)

  • DRA is providing positive reinforcement to behaviors that you would like to see instead of the maladaptive behavior.

  • Example: In the candy example above, the father could use DRA to reduce or eliminate the child’s nagging by no longer providing candy in response to repeatedly asking (meaning to no longer give in to his nagging for candy). Additionally, he should provide positive reinforcement for behaviors he would like to see instead (alternative behaviors). He could provide candy to the child if the child uses his manners and talks with an appropriate voice and says, “May I please have some candy?” or he could provide candy if the child displays alternative behavior, such as sharing with his siblings or behaving well (objectively defined) in the grocery store.


  • Extinction is when the reinforcement that was maintaining a behavior is no longer provided. When using extinction, it is recommended to use reinforcement for a behavior you would rather see instead.

  • Example: In the above example, the father can use extinction by not giving the child what he or she wants when the child asks repeatedly.

Extinction Burst

  • When using extinction, the behavior you are targeting is likely to increase in frequency, duration, or intensity temporarily. When reinforcement is no longer provided for a particular behavior, the child may display that behavior even more for a period of time.

  • Example: When the father puts his child’s repeated asking on extinction, the child will most likely ask for the preferred item even more for a while to see if the dad will eventually give in. The father should continue to put the repeated asking on extinction (not give in to the behavior) and then the behavior is likely to decrease. However, it is important to note that if there is another function rather than access to the tangible item for repeated asking, simply not providing the item may not be effective. Always consider the function of the behavior.




  • Chaining is breaking a larger task into smaller steps. Using chaining can help a child learn a more complex skill. It can also help the behavior analyst or parent identify areas that the child could use more help with.

  • Example: Teaching a child to brush his teeth can be broken down into smaller steps. The detail of the chain should be based on the individual child and their learning needs and abilities. The chain may include steps, such as picking up the toothbrush, opening the toothpaste, putting the toothpaste on the toothbrush, putting the cap back on the toothpaste, brushing the different areas of the teeth, etc.


  • Shaping is when reinforcement is provided for closer and closer approximations to the ultimate behavior goal.

  • Example: When a parent teaches a child to brush his teeth, shaping can be used to teach the child to scrub his teeth more thoroughly as he gets better at the skill.

Motivation (Motivating Operations)

  • “Motivating operations (MO) are environmental variables that alter the effectiveness of some stimulus, object, or event as a reinforcer. They alter the current frequency of all behavior that has been reinforced by that stimulus, object, or event. (ABA: MO).

  • Example: A child has not played on any electronic device all day, so by the afternoon he is more likely to comply with requests if he can early electronic time as a result.

Response Effort

  • Response effort refers to the effort that is required to carry out a behavior. When a behavior takes more response effort, a person is generally less likely to show that behavior. As the response effort decreases, a person will be more likely to engage in that behavior.

  • Example: A child will probably clean his room if it is less messy because it takes less response effort as compared to if the room is extremely messy and requires more response effort.

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ABA Parent Training Topic Idea - Data Collection

ABA Parent Training Topic Idea - Data Collection