Taking ABC Data

When developing an IEP for an autistic student, it’s important to observe the child’s behavior to look for patterns, functions, and preferences. Because autism spectrum disorders have a direct impact on behavior, it’s important to develop a plan using behavioral data so that it’s easier to tackle communications challenges, social interactions, sensory needs, and other important goals in an IEP.

ABC data is a type of behavioral research that utilizes observations to help develop a positive behavior support plan. ABC refers to three separate observations:

  • Antecedent – the events, action, or circumstances that occur before a certain behavior. For example, a teacher asks a student to pay attention.
  • Behavior – the behavior itself. For example, using the teacher and student interaction, the student ignores the teacher.
  • Consequence – the action or response that follows the behavior. For example, the teacher repeats herself sternly.

If you are gathering ABC data on an autistic student, you may want to develop a three column chart that charts each ABC action (antecedent, behavior, consequence). Be sure to note the time and any environmental factors that could have contributed to the behavior.

Remember do not interpret or characterize the behavior. Identify what preceded the behavior, what the behavior looked like and how long it lasted, and what the consequences were. Its important to report the conditions as objectively as possible. It may help to act as if someone else were observing and reporting. Objective data can help the IEP team develop a plan of action for helping an autistic student deal with his or her behavioral and social challenges.

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