Applied behavioral analyses therapy  (ABA) applies a tool that behavioral analyses use called ABC – Antecedent, behavior, consequence. This is a technique used in many behavioral therapies and is the foundation of why we do what we do, as human beings.

Every single parent has a behavior that we would like to change in our child, even if they aren’t Autistic. We wish they would put their socks away, not tantrum, go to bed on time or do their homework without being asked. As parents we negotiate, punish and set boundaries to help our child achieve the behaviors they need once they enter the world without us. ABC breaks down these behaviors into three parts to help us analyze and get the results we’re looking for.

If you’ve ever wondered why you’ve told your child 100 times not to do something? And think you’re setting the right punishment or reward for the behavior but are getting nowhere? Perhaps you aren’t looking at the antecedent.

What is an Antecedent?

An antecedent is a stimulus that occurs before the negative behavior. Such as: an action, circumstance or persons presence. It cues or sets off a certain reaction. It moulds our behavior— which is why ABA therapists will look at this first. If you can change the antecedent, you can change the negative behavior your child is displaying.

Here is an example of why looking at an antecedent can help…

A child is asked to sit in circle time during class. Instead, the child sits in the corner and waits for the teacher to drag the child back to the circle. The child continues this behavior until the teacher makes him sit at her feet as punishment.

In this scenario the child appears to not be interested in circle time and so is reprimanded and forced to so he doesn’t escape the situation. But look closer and you can see the real reason the child is running from the circle. To sit next to the teacher! If the teacher changed the antecedent (where the child is asked to sit in circle time) and instead asks the child to sit next to her, she could avoid this situation all together.

Behaviors occur in situations where they are reinforced; this is important to remember because rewarding a child works better than punishing them. So if you redirect the child to something else (in this case sitting next to the teacher), and interfere with the trigger or antecedent, over time the child’s behavior will be reduced.

Antecedents help us to remember to look at the root of the issue so we can turn the situation into a positive that helps our child function better in the world. And that’s why an ABA therapist will look closely at your child’s ABC’s.