Applied behavior analysis is commonly referred to as ABA.  That’s fairly straightforward but since it seems that everything related to ABA has its own acronym, it can get confusing from there.  This blog will serve as a guide to explaining the acronyms of ABA.


Many of the common questions asked about our services relate to certification levels. BCBA stands for Board Certified Behavior Analyst.  This is the highest level of certification in the field of ABA.  To be eligible for this certification, a Master’s degree (or a PhD) is required and 1,000 hours of experience working in the field.  At least 10% of these hours must be supervised by a current BCBA who provides feedback and ensures that services are conducted properly.  There are certain Master-level programs approved by the certification board as containing adequate classwork to ensure the proper level of academic proficiency in the subject.  BCBA’s may complete one of these programs or comparable schoolwork in a non-approved program.  Once these requirements are complete, you must pass a certification exam which tests knowledge of principles, real-world applications, and ethics.  BCBA’s can provide therapy, conduct assessments and write behavior plans, conduct program updates and supervise therapists, among other duties.  BCBA’s must complete 36 hours of continuing education every three years to ensure they stay up to date on current research and practices.


BCaBA stands for Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst.  This is the second -highest certification level in the field of ABA.  To become a BCaBA you need a Bachelor’s degree and 1,000 hours of experience in the field, with at least 10% of those hours supervised by a BCBA.  The Bachelor’s degree may be in any subject but a certain amount of coursework in various facets of ABA (ethics, principles, etc.) is required.  Once these requirements are met, you must pass a certification exam.  This exam is less demanding than that for the BCBA but encompasses the same areas.  BCaBA’s can provide therapy, conduct assessments and write behavior plans, conduct program updates and supervise therapists, among other duties.  While a BCaBA’s duties are often similar to a BCBA’s, a primary difference is that a BCaBA’s work is conducted under the supervision of a BCBA.  BCaBA’s must complete 24 hours of continuing education every three years in order to maintain their certification.


RBT stands for Registered Behavior TechnicianTM. A RBT is a paraprofessional who practices under the close, ongoing supervision of a BCBA or BCaBA. The RBT is primarily responsible for the direct implementation of ABA services.


The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) sets the certification standards for BCBA’s and BCaBA’s, provides certification testing, monitors maintenance of certifications, approves university course sequences, and sets ethical standards for the field.  For more information on the BACB or any of these topics, visit their website:


VB stands for verbal behavior.  This pertains to B. F. Skinner’s analysis which separated verbal behavior into categories based on function.  These categories include mands (requests), labels (tacts), receptive/listener behavior (following directions), intraverbals (conversational speech), and echoics (vocal imitation).  A VB program is a program like BCOTB’s which utilizes Skinner’s analysis to more effectively teach communication skills.


The VB-MAPP is the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program. This is an assessment and curriculum guide which breaks verbal behavior into categories based on function and further breaks each of those categories down into individual skills.  These skills are organized in the order in which a typically-developing child would develop them.  This allows the assessor to evaluate the child’s current skill level as compared to the appropriate skill level for their age.  From this information, the assessor can determine which skills should be targeted during therapy.


Discrete trial training (DTT) is a method of teaching which involves sitting at the table with the child and teaching specifically targeted skills.  These target skills are determined based on the child’s assessment and current abilities.  Each target is presented individually and praise, toys, or edible reinforcers are delivered for correct responding, while an error correction procedure is conducted for incorrect answers or lack of responding.  This kind of teaching allows us to teach specific skills which are needed in a systematic way.


NET stands for natural environment teaching.  NET is conducted in natural play or public settings for the child, such as playgrounds or stores, or in the playroom at the clinic.  During NET, the therapist determines what to teach based on the child’s interests.  If the child goes to play with the blocks, the therapist will find ways to use blocks to teach some goals being targeted in DTT and also skills related to the activity that may not have been taught otherwise.  NET is useful because it incorporates activities the children are interested in so they are more likely to be motivated to learn. Also, teaching in the natural environment using items the child is likely to interact with on a day to day basis helps the skills generalize to other settings and situations. Hopefully this guide provides you with a better understanding of some of the terms associated with ABA. If you have any other questions related to acronyms related to ABA, please feel free to leave it in the comment section below.

Published On: March 26th, 2013 / Categories: Blog, Verbal Behavior Program (ABA/VB) /

Subscribe To Receive Our Newsletter