12 Sep 2018

BY: admin


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Three term contingency?? For parents who are new to ABA, you’ll be discovering that we use a lot of jargon. It is our job to make sure that we not only translate this into layman’s terms for you, but also educate you about ABA terminology throughout your therapy journey. This is going to be one of a 5 part series focused on educating parents about terminology, what they mean, and how you can start applying them yourself. Parents continuing the work we do into the home, especially during Early Intervention (EI) is essential to see optimum success.

5 Part Series

In our five part series we will be covering the following terms:

  • The three term contingency
  • Functions of behaviour
  • Verbal Behaviour
  • Reinforcement and Punishment
  • Prompts

The Three Term Contingency

The three-term contingency is a critical part of ABA, and all behaviour can, one way or another, fit into this breakdown. ABC, or Antecedent – Behaviour – Consequence, is how we frame behaviours. Behaviour and learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum – there is never a behaviour with no explanation. An antecedent is what happens before, and a consequence is what happens after. An antecedent can signal that reinforcement or punishment is, or is not, available for certain behaviours.

Here are some examples:

The teacher says “who knows what letter this is?”Child responds by putting his hand up and saying “a”Praise from the teacher (attention)
A child has a difficult homework task in front of him.Child says “Can I help you with the dishes mum?”Mum says “yes of course” and they do dishes together (escape and attention)
Therapist says “What goes woof”Child responds “Car”Praise and an edible are given (tangible and attention).
A parent asks a child to turn off the TVThe child has a tantrumThe child is allowed 5 more minutes (tangible, escape).


The consequence that is provided determines whether or not learning will occur. In three of these examples some “unhelpful” learning is occurring!

Sometimes your therapy team might ask you to keep ABC data on a behaviour of interests so that we can help design an intervention based on function (more on that next week).

If you are interested in this topic, or have any questions further questions about how this might be applicable to your child please feel free to call me on 9274 7062.


Jasmin Fyfe

ABACAS Program Manager