We realized after we posted yesterday regarding the necessity of parent permission for a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA), that several of you were in the dark about the definition of an FBA as well as what makes a good FBA.
So, we thought we should provide our readers with a simple overview. Please keep in mind that one daily blog post on FBA is insufficient for a topic so broad and important.
What is a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA)?
We will provide two definitions of the FBA. The first is from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, the entity responsible for certifying behavior analysts also known as BCBA and BCaBA. Under the conduct guidelines, FBA is defined as:
“Functional assessment includes a variety of systematic information-gathering activities regarding factors influencing the occurrence of a behavior (e.g., antecedents, consequences, setting events, or motivating operations) including interview, direct observation, and experimental analysis.“
The second definition is from the Technical Assistance Center on Social and Emotional Development. They define FBA as:
“Functional Behavioral Assessment involves the collection of data, observations, and information to develop a clear understanding of the relationship of events and circumstances that trigger and maintain problem behavior.”
What Makes a Good FBA?
- Data. Both describe the data collection or systematic information gathering as one component of an FBA. Thus, a good FBA is comprised of data. Typically, behavior analysts will include graphs of data so that readers will have a clear picture regarding the behavior.
- Influential factors. Both definitions include the importance of finding factors, events, or circumstances associated with the behavior. Thus, a good FBA will include a list of events, activities, situations, people, or materials that are associated with the behavior.
- Observation. Both definitions specifically list observation as an activity within the FBA process. Thus, a good FBA will include observations of the student’s behaviors. While the IEP team will discuss the findings of the FBA during a team meeting, the FBA is not actually conducted during the IEP meeting as direct observations of student behavior should occur during home, community, and school situations where the behavior occurs.
- Behavior Triggers. Both definitions describe how antecedents or events and circumstances trigger behavior. A good FBA will include detailed descriptions of events that set off the behavior or precede the behavior.
- Reinforcement for Behaviors. Both definitions describe the consequences that reinforce or maintain the challenging behavior. Thus, a good FBA specifically identifies events, items, and activities that maintain or reinforce the challenging behavior. Most assessments will identify this as the “function” of behavior.
What Are the Functions (or Reinforcers) for Challenging Behavior?
As part of the FBA, the assessor will identify the items, events, and activities that are responsible for maintaining the behavior. Most assessors agree that behavior occurs for 8 different reasons or any combination of the 8 reasons.
- Obtain access to a preferred item
- Obtain access to a preferred activity
- Obtain access to attention
- Obtain access to sensory reinforcement or non-social reinforcement or automatic reinforcement
- Avoid a non-preferred item
- Avoid a non-preferred activity
- Avoid attention
- Avoid sensory or non-social reinforcement or automatic reinforcement
Combinations of these 8 functions may occur in any way. For example, a student may escape a non-preferred activity (calendar time) to obtain access to attention (being held in time out in the corner). Another student may engage in hand flapping (often assumed to be sensory seeking) as a way of avoiding a non-preferred interaction with the teacher. We could go on and on with combinations.
In summary, if your child receives an FBA as part of his or her program, be sure to read the final report to ensure that: data were presented within the document, observations were completed as part of the assessment, influential factors were identified and described, behavior triggers were listed, and an appropriate function or functions of the challenging behavior were provided.
We want to know, has your child received an FBA from the school? Did it include the items we have identified? Did you provide consent for the assessment in writing? Please share!