Pediatric ABA Therapy Terms; Q-Z

Qualitative Developmental Assessment
An evaluation of the quality, rather than the quantity, of a child’s cognitive skills.

A Latin word meaning “thing.” A rebus symbol is a picture that visually represents a word or syllable. There are many types of rebuses, but the most common collection was developed as a mechanism for teaching young non-disabled children to read.

Receptive Language
The ability to understand what is being expressed, including verbal and nonverbal communication, such as sign language. Compare to Expressive Language.

Reverting to a more immature form of behavior or decreased skill level. For example, a child who resumes sucking her thumb after a substantial period (months or years) of no thumb-sucking. Regression is usually felt to be an unconscious protective mechanism.


A behavior modification technique used to increase the likelihood of a desired response or behavior. Positive reinforcement is accomplished by immediately strengthening or rewarding a desirable behavior. The reward can be a social reinforcer, such as praise or a hug, or it can be material, such as a sticker or cookie. One form of negative reinforcement is to withdraw a privilege.

Any consequence following a behavior that increases the probability of that behavior being repeated. Potential reinforcers may include social interaction (e.g., praise, high fives), physical interaction (e.g., tickles, hugs), access to preferred items (e.g., toys, snacks), or breaks from work.

Repetitive Behaviors
Repeating actions (rocking, spinning, hand-flapping), speech (repeating the same sound or words), or activities (lining up cars, opening and closing doors) often seen in children with ASD. Often, these behaviors are restricted to a limited number of actions. These behaviors may be “self-stimulatory.”

Resource Specialist
A teacher who provides special education instruction to children who are taught by regular classroom teachers for the majority of the school day. Sometimes called resource teachers.

An innovative web-based curriculum aimed at empowering parents and teachers with the tools necessary to teach children with autism. The curriculum provides video demonstrations of ABA-based teaching interactions.

Screening Test or Tool
An evaluation tool designed to identify children who are at-risk for having or developing a developmental disability. This is different from a diagnostic tool that is used to determine if a person has or does not have autism.

Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT)
An aide assigned to help a child in the classroom by giving them individualized attention and support.

Involuntary physical movement or changes in consciousness or behavior brought on by abnormal bursts of electrical activity in the brain. See Epilepsy.

Self-Injurious Behavior (SIB)
Abnormal behaviors that are harmful to oneself, such as head- banging or scratching or biting oneself.

Sensory Stimulation
Any arousal of one or more of the senses. For example, a play activity that includes touching strips of shiny cellophane, listening to them crinkle, and watching while a bright light is shining on them against a contrasting background might be fun and stimulating for a child with visual impairment.

Defined as abnormal behaviors that interfere with the individual’s ability to pay attention or participate in meaningful activity, such as head banging, watching the fingers wiggle or rocking side to side. It is often referred to as “self-stimming” or “stimming.” Unpurposeful play with a toy can be self-stimulating, such as repetitively spinning the wheels of a toy truck instead of exploring the different ways it can be used. In children, self-stimulation is most common when there is a diagnosis of mental retardation, autism or a psychosis.

Sensory Impairment
A problem with receiving information through one or more of the senses (sight, hearing, touch, etc.). For example, deafness is a sensory impairment.

Sensory Integration
The ability of the central nervous system to receive, processes, and learn from sensations in order to develop skills. The sensations include touch, movement, sight, sound, smell and the pull of gravity.

Reinforcing successive approximations of a terminal behavior until the terminal behavior is exhibited. Differential reinforcement is involved in shaping procedures. In order to be effective when reinforcing closer approximations, previous versions of the behavior will be put on extinction aka will no longer receive reinforcement. For example, if you are trying to teach a child to sign, you might first accepting hands clapped together for “more”. As the student becomes more precise with the formation, such as folding their hands you would no longer honor ‘sloppier’ versions for “more”. Every interaction we have with our environment shapes our behavior.

Speech Therapy
Therapy to improve the individual’s speech and language skills, as well as oral motor abilities.

Stereotypic Behavior
Repetitive motor movements that occur frequently; examples include body rocking, hand flapping, and object manipulation.

Stimming Self-Stimulatory Behavior
Also known as stimming and self-stimulation, is the repetition of physical movements, sounds, or repetitive movement of objects common in individuals with developmental disabilities, but most prevalent in people with autistic spectrum disorders.

The people, animals, objects, and events currently present in one’s immediate surroundings that impinge on one’s sense receptors and that can affect behavior.

Stimulus Preference Assessment
Any systematic method used to predict which stimuli will function as a positive reinforcer for a child’s behavior.

A group of interventions (techniques) that share a common approach.

A tact is a verbal operant that comes under the control of a particular object or event or property of a particular object or event (e.g., labeling a “ball” when you see a ball).

The expression of intense frustration. Typical of children that cannot typically express emotions or verbalize needs.

Target Behaviors
Behaviors to be improved in a behavior modification program.

Task Analysis
The process of breaking a skill down into smaller steps.

A specific intervention (e.g., reinforcing appropriate behaviors).

Theory Of Mind (TOM)
The capacity to understand that others have different beliefs, desires, and feelings than our own. (i.e. seeing things from another person’s point of view).

The process of a child moving from an early intervention program to a preschool program or other support service.

Any method that is used in an attempt to modify behavior.

Treatment Plan
A document that details a patient’s course of therapy.

Unconditioned Reinforcer

A stimulus that is reinforcing without prior learning or conditioning.

Verbal Behavior
A behavioral approach to teaching communication skills to children with autism and other developmental disabilities, based on B.F. Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior.

Whole Interval Time Sampling
A direct observational procedure in which the presence of absence of specific behaviors is recorded within short uniform time intervals.

Whole Interval Recording
A method of time sampling measures behavior in brief time periods (behavior must occur the entire time of the interval).

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