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Autism and the ABC Chart

Updated: Mar 26, 2023

Every behaviour is a form of communication.

Communication is one of the main difficulties that Flora and children with ASC are having. Due to this difficulty often, children with ASC are showing behaviour that challenges as they struggle to find the right word or identify an appropriate way to express their thoughts.

In a previous post we had given examples of behaviours that challenge, we mentioned possible triggers and suggested ways to de-escalate incidents that may occur. More information about behaviours that challenge can be found here.

Although, it is important to know how to react when such an incident occurs, it is more important to understand why it happened so that we can prevent it from happening again in the future and help the child to find a more appropriate way to express what they want to communicate.

However, it is not always clear what may have triggered the behaviour that challenges and what the child is trying to communicate. As a result, it is difficult to take the right actions and make appropriate plans to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future and help the child with finding a different way to express themselves.

In order to understand an incident better we can use the ABC Chart.

The ABC Chart is a tool that we can use to record information and understand a particular behaviour

It includes:

  1. Antecedent: This is where we are briefly describing what was happening before the student exhibited the behaviour. It’s important to include who else was there, where the student was, what the student was doing, e.g. activity.

  2. Behaviour: Here we are describing the behaviour.

  3. Consequence: This is where we record what happened after the behaviour was exhibited. It is important to include the reaction of the people around, as well as what did the student end up doing.

For example:

  1. Antecedent: 10.15 am. Music, all the students ( 15 in total) are sitting in a circle and playing with the instruments. It’s very loud.

  2. Behaviours: Flora throws the musical instrument she was using at the student who was sitting next to her.

  3. Consequences: Everybody stopped playing- it was quiet in the classroom and snack time started earlier. Flora was calmer after her snack.

It is important to record every time the student is displaying behaviour that challenges, as this will help us to observe the following:

  • When/ what time of the day does the behaviour occur, e.g. before snack time.

  • During which activities does the behaviour usually occur, e.g. music lesson, before the end of the day.

  • If there are specific people around when the behaviour occurs.

  • What does the student achieve with exhibiting this behaviour, e.g. avoiding an activity, eating a snack

The use of the ABC charts gives us the opportunity to observe if there is a pattern and what is causing this behaviour. It also helps us to make relevant changes to prevent similar incidents from happening again and identify the right strategies to teach the students so that they can express themselves in a more appropriate way.

In the example above, it is quite apparent that by throwing the instrument at her peer, Flora managed to stop the noise that her classmates were making during the Music lesson. We can also notice that the incident happened at a time, 10.15am, that Flora needed a snack. If we have previously recorded similar incidents, we may be able to identify if she is always targeting the same people which could imply that we need to support Flora with her interactions with them.

The first change we can make to support Flora is to prepare her for the Music lesson. We can let her know in advance that she has Music that day and that it will be noisy. We can give her the option to choose whether she wants to remain in class or do the lesson somewhere else. We can also teach her that when it's too noisy, she can use the symbols to request for help, wear headphones or have a break. We can also change the seating or the lesson plan, e.g. instead of all students playing at the same time, they can take turns, Flora can have a small snack before the lesson.


We will share more tips and activities in the future, so keep visiting us.

We are looking forward to hearing your views and experiences. You can email us at

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