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ESE Behavior Glossary of Terms


Applied Behavior Analysis.  A systematic approach to analyzing and changing behavior in a precisely measurable and accountable manner, based on the principles of behavior, and in the setting of context in which the behavior naturally occurs.  The behavior must be socially important for the individual, and there must be a measurable evaluation of the results.

Behavioral contract.  The negotiated goals and procedures of a Behavior Intervention Plan, mutually agreed upon by the student and modifiable by joint agreement.

Behavior Intervention Plan.  A written plan which has multiple components, specifying the procedures and supports which will be implemented to effect a reduction in problem behavior and an increase in alternative, positive behavior.  Components should be integrated and should include (1) changes in the environment/contest and setting events before problem behavior is likely to occur; (2) teaching alternative, positive skills and behaviors; (3) managing consequences; and (4) crisis management to maintain safety, if necessary.

Chaining.   A procedure in which responses are reinforced in sequence to form more complex behaviors that ultimately occur as a single cohesive performance.

Contingent activities.  An activity or effort required as a consequence of a target behavior.

Extinction.  A procedure in which the reinforcement of a previously reinforced behavior is discontinued.

Fading.  The systematic, gradual removal of prompts.

Functional Behavior Assessment.  A process for identifying clear, predictive relationships between events in the student’s environment and the occurrences of a target behavior; the process of coming to an understanding of why a student engages in problem behavior; the process for developing a useful understanding of how behavior relates to the environment.


Isolation time-out.  A form of time-out in which the students is located in a separate room or behind a physical barrier, more restrictive than exclusion time-out.

Modified curriculum.  Changing the curriculum in some manner to meet the student’s needs.  Examples include increasing/decreasing the difficulty level, length, or pace, alternating easy and difficult tasks, alternating preferred and less preferred tasks, teaching the skill within daily routines, using materials that are interesting to the student, etc.

Modified physical environment.  Changing the environment in some manner to better meet a student’s needs.

Modified scheduling.  Changing the schedule in some manner to better meet the student’s needs.

Negative reinforcement.  Removing an aversive event that follows a behavior, resulting in an increase in the behavior, a type of consequence.

Non-exclusion time-out.  Removal of some type of reinforcement that does not include moving the student to a different area.

Over-correction.  A procedure which consists of one or both basic components:  (1)  restitutional training, which requires the individual to restore the environment to a state substantially improved from that which existed prior to the behavior; and (2) positive practice, which requires the individual repeatedly to practice a positive alternative behavior.

Physical restraint.  A physical intervention that involves restricting a student’s movement in some way.

Premack Principle.  A principle that  states that access to high probability behavior (preferred activities) is made contingent on performance of low probability behavior.

Prompts.  Stimuli that control the desired behavior but that are not functionally related to the task.  Prompts may be verbal, gestural, in picture/visual form, by demonstration or physical in nature.

Reinforcement.  A process in which a behavior is strengthened (i.e., the behavior’s frequency, rate, duration, intensity, or other dimensions increase or persist) as a function of an event that follows the behavior.  Reinforcement may occur naturally or be planned; whether a behavior has been reinforced is known only by the future course of the behavior.

Replacement behavior.  A positive, desirable behavior that serves the same function as the target behavior.

Response cost.  A procedure in which specified reinforcers are contingently withdrawn following the target behavior.

Restitution.  Restoring the environment or situation back to the condition it was in before the behavior occurred.

Shaping.  Teaching new behaviors by systematically reinforcing successive approximations toward the behavioral objective.

Target behavior.  The behavior(s) to be changed; the behavior(s) to be increased or decreased in some measurable way, such as frequency, intensity or duration.

Time-out.  A procedure in which access to varied sources of reinforcement is removed or reduced for a particular time period contingent on a target behavior; either the student is removed for some period of time.

Verbal reprimand.  Telling the student that a particular behavior is inappropriate or unacceptable.