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ABC Charts


An ABC chart can be used to record behavioural concerns

Everyone who observes behaviour probably looks for similar characteristics (e.g., communication challenges, social deficits, restricted area of interests, sensory needs, etc.) and the impact on behavior. How information is gathered may be different for each person collecting the data and depending on the complexity of the situation. One format involves directly observing and recording situational factors surrounding a problem behavior using an assessment tool called ABC data collection. An ABC data form is an assessment tool used to gather information that should evolve into a positive behavior support plan.

ABC refers to:
Antecedent- the events, action, or circumstances that occur before a behavior.
Behavior- The behavior.
Consequences- The action or response that follows the behavior.

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things to remember when trying to determine what a behaviour is communicating

Behaviours generally occur to meet two primary needs:

It is important to remember that these often overlooked elements can contribute to the presentation of behaviour 


How to analyse behaviours by using an ABC chart


Define the behaviour that you wish to observe.

Be very specific.

Be sure that your definition is so narrow in scope that others would observe only what you had in mind



Decide which type of behavioural recording is best suited to monitor the behaviour.

Are you going to use ABC charts, STAR charts, notebooks, phone etc.




Decide when you will observe the behaviour. 

Do you want to observe the behaviour in a number of situations or just one (e.g., eating, story time)?




Decide how long each of your observations will last. Shorter timescales are easier, but the more time you spend observing, the more accurate will be your results.  Repeat your observations at least three more times to give a more representative picture. If the behaviour is sporadic you may need a sustained period of observance.




Be consistent.

If you feel something warrants recording in the beginning ensure that you record that level of behaviour from then on, that is your marker/standard.

Example: Recording level of refusal of food

Day 1: Refusal presented as ‘bowl thrown on floor’ and subsequently recorded as ‘refusal’

Day 2: Did not respond to name when called for dinner, recorded as ‘refusal’

While it is important to look at both the antecedents and the form of the behavior, the focus is on the consequence portion of the data collection. Examine the consequence portion of the data collection form when identifying those responses that both increase and decrease problem behaviour. For example, if getting attention seems to increase problem behavior, then it may be important to teach the individual to get attention in a more appropriate fashion or to use attention for positive behaviours.
 If escape from a difficult task seems to be a consistent theme in the consequence section, then it may be important to either change the task or to teach the child to ask for help. And we may choose to use downtime as a reinforcer. Our responses should always focus on strengthening desired behavior, promoting the use of the replacement behavior, and decreasing the occurrence of the problem behavior (Sugai, et. al., 2000).

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