How is the Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence Chart Used in ABA Therapy?

There are many different assessment tools used in applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, which might feel overwhelming at times. One of the reasons that there are so many diagnostic tools is to ensure that each child on the autism spectrum is properly diagnosed and treated. Since every child is unique and has individual needs, it isn’t realistic to use one diagnostic tool across the board and each tool examines different behaviors and skills.

One tool that is frequently used in ABA therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (ABC) chart. The data taken from an ABC chart can be extremely helpful in creating a treatment plan for ABA therapy, since this data includes behaviors of children in a particular environment, such as a classroom during the school day. An ABC chart can also show patterns in certain behaviors and environments.

What exactly is an ABC chart?
‘A’ stands for ‘antecedent,’  meaning this is the action or stimulus that precedes a certain behavior. This antecedent might be the cause of a particular behavior for a child.

‘B’ stands for ‘behavior.’ This is referring to the behavior that occurs immediately following the antecedent.

The last letter, ‘C,’ stands for the ‘consequence,’ meaning the action that occurs immediately after the behavior.

An ABC chart will typically show the date and time of the behavior being examined, in order to provide documentation. An example of a behavior that might be documented in an ABC chart:

A (antecedent): a child is asked to join the class for circle time
B (behavior): the child begins screaming that they do not want to participate and puts their head down on their desk
C (consequence): the child will not move or pick up their head from the desk, so the aide/parapro(fessional) goes to the child’s desk to work with them on joining.

Why is an ABC chart used in ABA therapy?
An ABC chart can provide a comprehensive look at the function of a behavior, as it follows the chain of progression in a behavior, beginning with the antecedent. This allows the ABA therapist to determine the cause for a certain behavior and work with the child to build more positive behaviors in therapy. If there is a problematic behavior that is recurring for a child with ASD, an ABC chart can help an ABA therapist to begin identifying the function of the behavior and target this behavior during ABA therapy. Since the goal of ABA is building more positive behaviors by replacing a problematic behavior with a more positive behavior, an ABC chart can help to achieve this goal. ABA may also improve self-regulation strategies and social interactions.


Would you like to learn more about ABC charts?
Are you interested in ABA services for your child in the Chicago area? Contact us or call (773) 630-4400 to learn more about the range of services we provide for children who are on the autism spectrum at Chicago ABA Therapy, including applied behavior analysis therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology.