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When and When Not to Conduct Functional Behavioral Assessments

Updated on February 19, 2012

When and Why to Conduct FBA's

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A Special Educator's Perspective

According to Crone & Horner (2003) there are certain procedures that should be followed when considering whether a functional assessment is needed. The first step occurs when a referral is made for services or intervention. Generally, referrals are made by the teacher, however, they can be made by anyone that deals directly with the student. Once the referral makes its way to the behavior support team, it is then reviewed. As indicated in Crone & Horner (2003) this is generally referred to as the Request for Assistance Form. From this form, the behavior support team will determine an operational definition of the problem behavior described so as to be concrete enough that someone could observe the behavior on any occasion.

The next step in this process is to conduct a simple functional behavioral assessment (FBA) (Crone & Horner, 2003). This step would focus on interviewing the child’s primary teacher or with the person referring the child for assessment. Within this step, the interview centers on identifying the problem behavior, defining characteristics of the problem behavior, looking at times when it occurs, identifying predictors, and consequences that follow the behavior.

The next step within the sequence is to develop a testable hypothesis (Crone & Horner, 2003). This step tends to act as the prescription or diagnosis for the behavior support team and will help determine what consequences should be replaced with more positive consequences. At this point, the team will then rate the problem behavior on the basis of how comfortable they are with the identification of the problem. If a rating of 1, 2, or 3 is received this would indicate that the team is not confident with the decision. This signals the end of the simple functional behavioral assessment (FBA). However, two criteria must be satisfied in order for this phase to be considered final: the student is not considered one who has a disability that may be at risk for suspension and where public education is limited and the team is confident with the final decision of the testable hypothesis.

Considering the following, if either of the criteria above is not satisfied, then a full functional behavioral assessment (FBA) would be initiated based on the simple FBA. Additional steps in this procedure include conducting an observation of the child in the setting which behaviors occur, as well as additional interviews with other teachers or school personnel and parents. One important thing to keep in mind though is that when conducting an interview with the family the interview must stay focused on the issues within the school setting (Crone & Horner, 2003). Finally, although students have not traditionally been involved in the process, it is recommended that a student interview also be conducted. Students generally can offer some good feedback concerning why they act the way they do and also should be present during the process, as they should know hat the consequences will be if they display such behavior. A benefit of observing the student allows an outsider to gean a peek at why the student engages on behaviors and ways the behavior is dealt with (Chandler & Dahlquist, 2002).

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