Skip to content

Behavior Basics

The ABC's of Behavior

How does behavior happen?

Behavior can be a tricky subject. Often we are faced with a challenging behavior and think "Wow, this is so random." However, behavior can be analyzed and changed using the ABCs. Below is a brief introduction and refresher.

Antecedent: What happens before a behavior that makes the behavior more or less likely to occur. This can happen immediately before the behavior or have a longer lead up (i.e. a specific academic request, not having a breakfast before PE class 1st period).

Behavior: What the student does. This is what you see and it is either a behavior excess or a behavior deficit. So we see too much of something or not enough of something.

Consequence: What happens after the behavior. It can be positive or negative.

Why do behaviors occur?

Every behavior has a purpose or what we call a function. Often as teachers we see the behavior and then react/respond. Our reaction may provide the consequence--removing a student, providing attention, giving extra instructions, etc. However, we often miss what is happening before the behavior. What happens before the behavior gives us important information on how to address the function and thus change the behavior.

These are four functions of behavior that follow the acronym EATS.

Escape: The student is avoiding or getting away from something s/he deems unpleasant (running away, ignoring directions, etc.)

Attention: The student is getting positive (or negative) attention from peers, teacher, or other staff

Tangible: The student gets access to an object (food, toy, etc.)

Sensory: The student would do this regardless if someone was looking or not, think head banging, picking, etc.