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Archive for the ‘Assessment’ Category

Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I take questions from readers. Today’s question comes from Judy who writes,

Hi Dr. Olive, my child’s school BCBA recently completed a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) for my child. The report seemed to be very detailed. However, I disagreed with the report because the BCBA did not include an assessment of my son’s scripting. The BCBA did not interview me as part of the FBA because it was a “school FBA”. I told the school that I wanted an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)/FBA at the school expense. Now they are telling me that they don’t have to give me an IEE because they think their FBA is good enough. Do I have any options?

Hi Judy, and thanks for writing. This is a great question and so very similar to some of the things I’ve seen happening in recent months. For example, one of my relatives requested an IEE for their child’s initial evaluation and the district filed due process against them! You can imagine how scary it is to be told that your school district is filing AGAINST  you!

I have a couple of points to address regarding your question. For my readers who are lost with all this terminology, you may read about an FBA here, learn about what to expect from an FBA here, and finally, learn the difference between an FBA and a functional analysis here.

Right to an IEE

First, if your child has an IEP, you have the right to request an IEE as long as the school completed their FBA within the past 12 months and you disagree with it. You don’t have to say why you disagree; just merely indicate you disagree.

The school does have a right to refuse the IEE by stating that their FBA is appropriate. At that point, you would have to file due process against them. I don’t recommend taking that step unless you have legal representation. Should you file due process against the school, you will need to prove why their FBA is insufficient.

I have heard of 3 different cases in Connecticut (I’m sure there are more) where the school refused to provide the IEE and so the family proceeded with a due process. In all 3 cases, the school district settled the case after the family spent precious time and resources gathering data, experts, and attorneys.

Parent Involvement in the FBA

My second point to your question is that the BCBA has a duty to involve you, the parent in the FBA. The reasons for this are twofold. First, the BACB Guidelines for Responsible Conduct require written parent permission to assess (see Guideline #3). Second, the BACB Guideline #4 requires client or guardian involvement during individual behavior change program planning.

“The behavior analyst (a) designs programs that are based on behavior analytic principles, including assessments of effects of other intervention methods, (b) involves the client or the client-surrogate in the planning of such programs, (c) obtains the consent of the client, and (d) respects the right of the client to terminate services at any time.”

If the parent disagrees with the FBA, how could the parent possibly be involved in the planning of the program? The BCBA should minimally involve the parent/guardian throughout the FBA and the BIP.

Research on Family Involvement

My third point to your question is to highlight the research on the importance of family involvement during the assessment and intervention process. For starters, including families in the process will serve to help educate parents on the assessment and intervention process. This education may then go on to reduce parenting stress (c.f., Bristol, et al., 1993; Gallagher, 1991; and Koegel et al., 1996). Second, professionals should be conducting assessments and development interventions utilizing a multicultural lens (c.f., Harris, 1996; Heller et al., 1994). Without parent involvement, cultural competence cannot be achieved.

In summary, if your child’s BCBA, behaviorist, behavior specialist, or similar completes an FBA on your child and you disagree with it, be sure to ask your team for an independent educational evaluation (IEE).

References

Bristol, M.M., J.J.Gallagher, and K.D.Holt 1993 Maternal depressive symptoms in autism: Response to psycho-educational intervention. Rehabilitation Psychology 38:3–9.

Gallagher, J.J. 1991 The family as a focus for intervention. In Handbook of Early Childhood Interventions, S.Meisels and J.Shonkoff, eds. Cambridge MA: Cambridge University Press.

Harris, S.L. 1983 Families of the Developmentally Disabled: A Guide to Behavioral Intervention. Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press.

Heller, T., R.Markwardt, L.Rowitz, and B.Farber 1994 Adaptation of Hispanic families to a member with mental retardation. American Journal on Mental Retardation 99:289–300.

Koegel, R.L., A.Bimbela, and L.Schreibman 1996 Collateral effects of parent training on family interactions. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 26:347–359.

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Hi and welcome to What Works Wednesdays where we share a success story from one of our clinical cases. All names have been changed to preserve the privacy of the child and family. Our intent is to show readers how successful ABA can be. Today’s story is about a young man we call Boost (you will see why a bit later in this post).

Boost came to us with a long history of feeding difficulties and he was only 7. He was diagnosed with autism and he was also non-verbal. Boost had previously eaten food but only in wet ground form. By the time he got to us, he consumed only Boost and apple juice. Both liquids were consumed from a bottle with the top of the nipple cut off so the liquid would literally pour into his mouth.

Prior to any behavioral feeding therapy, we require a thorough record review and assessment to assess for any possible underlying issues. (Honestly, all intervention programs should be preceded by a thorough assessment to help with program planning. We have written about that previously here.) For Boost, we completed a record review to determine if any assessments were needed prior to therapy. Boost had a long history of gastrointestinal (GI) issues so we referred his family to a gastroenterologist for a thorough work up.

The gastroenterologist completed an endoscopy during which the gastroenterologist inserted a pill camera to complete an assessment of the entire small bowel. He discovered that Boost had serious inflammation in his GI tract. Specifically, Boost’s pylorus was so inflamed that even the pill camera would not pass. You heard us correctly. A tiny pill camera would not pass through his pylorus. And we all wondered why he had limited his calorie consumption to a pure liquid diet.

You see, Boost was non-verbal. He could not tell us that he had GI pain. He could not tell us that it hurt to eat. Had we started therapy without the GI Assessment, we could have caused Boost a great deal of pain. This case is an excellent example for demonstrating the importance of assessment prior to treatment.

The GI Doctor placed Boost on an elemental formula and anti-inflammatory medication so that Boost could obtain appropriate nutrition while allowing his GI tract to heal, a process that took 6 months.

Parents, if you have a picky eater, please make sure that you obtain assessment in all areas to rule out underlying issues. Behavior analysts, do due diligence in the assessment process to ensure that you do no harm in your behavioral feeding therapy.

We would love to hear from readers. Please share what types of information you have gained from the assessment process prior to behavioral feeding therapy.

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The Connecticut Association for Behavior Analysis (CT ABA) is tomorrow. Are you registered? Missy will be speaking on Special Education Laws and the Ethical Issues for Behavior Analysts. Rebecca will be speaking about how to use Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to teach social skills to children with autism.

The conference committee has lined up other great speakers too. These include Dr. Bill Heward, Dr. Richard Graff, Dr. Kathleen Dyer, Dr. Judith Ursitti, and Dr. Amy Odum. Participants will earn Continuing Education Credits plus lunch is included.

Applied Behavioral Strategies will have a booth so please stop by to see us between sessions.

Enjoy the conference!

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Take a look at our picture below. (Thanks go out to Bil Keane for this wonderful cartoon (c) 1976.) See if you can guess why PJ is tantrumming. When there is a reason for a behavior, behavior analysts called it a function or a purpose. This is the first time we have tried a poll so please participate! We will post the answer tomorrow! Thanks for playing.

Let's BEE Friends

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Here at Applied Behavioral Strategies, our mission is to improve the quality of life through effective intervention. One way we hope to do that is by reviewing research articles for our readers. The title of today’s article is State Special Education Laws for Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plans. Perry Zirkel authored the article and Behavioral Disorders published it in August, 2011 (Volume 36, number 4).

Purpose

The author set out to analyze state laws regarding Functional Behavioral Assessments (FBA) and Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP). For background information related to federal requirements for FBAs and BIPs, read Dr. Zirkel’s introduction. He provides information regarding the law, regulations, and federal interpretations of the law.

Method

The author searched  for state laws regarding FBAs and BIPs. Keep in mind, states may only add to federal legislation, not take away from requirements. Then he tabulated the information adding a “when”, “who”, “what”, and “how” column. Specifically, the “when” column identified if a state identified when the FBA and BIP were required. The “who” column indicated when a state identified the parties responsible for completing the FBA and developing the BIP. The “what” column indicated when a state defined the FBA and BIP. Finally, the “how” column identified when a state included information about how to complete an FBA and BIP.

Results

Key finding #1. Thirty-one of the states have requirements regarding FBAs and BIPs.

Key finding #2. Twelve of the 31 states fail to identify both the “who” and the “when”.

Key finding #3. Zero of the 31 states require both an FBA and a BIP when a child’s behavior interferes with the child’s learning or that of others. May we note that this seems absurd to us? How can a BIP be developed without an FBA? And how could an FBA not result in a BIP? We are terribly saddened by this finding.

Key finding #4. Only 2 states provided information about how to complete both an FBA and BIP. Meanwhile 12 states provided some information about how to complete a BIP.

Key finding #5. Seventeen states define FBAs and BIPs with only 14 of the 17 mentioning “function” with regards to FBA.

Conclusions

As parents, teachers, behavior analysts, and/or advocates for children with behavioral challenges, we have a duty to make changes at the state level to ensure that students are protected with policies that will result in appropriate assessment and intervention. Protective policies regarding FBAs and BIPs will most likely prevent the use of scream rooms and other inappropriate behavior reduction techniques.

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We have been to a number of IEP meetings where the results of a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) were presented. You won’t believe some of the things we have heard! Check out this list:

  1. Your child doesn’t need an FBA. FBAs are for children who have severe emotional problems.
  2. Here is our FBA form, let’s fill it out so we can write the Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP).
  3. You cannot ask for an independent FBA. An FBA is not an assessment.
  4. We finished your child’s FBA. The function of your child’s behavior is anxiety.
  5. We finished your child’s FBA. The function of your child’s behavior is control.
  6. We tried to do an FBA but your child does not have any behaviors.
  7. I don’t know how to graph your child’s functional analysis results. They didn’t teach me how to graph in school.
  8. We don’t need a behavior analyst to do the FBA. Our special education teacher took a class on behavior. She can do it.
  9. Why did your report say the child escaped? Our staff keep children within arm’s length at  all times.

And the number 1 craziest thing we have heard about FBAs:

10. We cannot do an FBA as part of the initial evaluation. We have to see how he behaves in special education first.

Please share! What crazy things have you been told about an FBA? Behavior analysts, what have you heard?

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Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to email questions from readers who have questions about behavior. Today’s question actually comes from a list serve rather than an actual email to me directly.

A number of parents have been discussing the issue of scream rooms or seclusion timeout rooms. If you are interested in reading about this more, please check out our previous posts on the topic here, here, here, and here.

As part of the discussion about these rooms, a number of people mentioned the importance of having a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) done combined with developing an appropriate behavior plan. Other people then posted about the importance of a functional analysis. That is when a parent asked,

“Could you please explain the difference between an FBA (functional behavior assessment) and a Functional Analysis?” “Also, please explain who can do a functional analysis and why it’s important you get a qualified person to do it.”

We have written about FBAs on this blog before. We described an FBA here, we described when to do an FBA here, and we reviewed some legal cases on FBA here.

So, for a recap, remember:

The FBA is a multi-step process that may include some or all of the following:
A good FBA will include a graph summarizing the observations and/or functional analysis.
The FBA should result in a statement or statements that tell you WHY the child is engaging in the behavior.
Additionally, according to federal special education law, an FBA must be completed under these conditions:
  • If, during the IEP meeting, the team determines that the child has a behavior that is impeding his/her learning (or that of others)
  • If the child’s placement needs to become more restrictive because of the challenging behaviors
  • If the child’s behavior has resulted in an emergency change of placement
  • As part of the initial and full evaluation if necessary
What is a Functional Analysis?
 The functional analysis is one step or possible component of the FBA. The functional analysis is a manipulation of events to PROVE why the behavior is happening. For example, if the assessment data suggests that a child may be attention seeking with his/her behavior, then the functional analysis will be implemented so that in one condition, the child is given a toy immediately following the challenging behavior but in the comparison condition, the child is given attention immediately following the challenging behavior. Then, the behavior analyst will count and graph the number of times the child engaged in challenging behavior in each condition. If the child is truly attention seeking, the rates of challenging behavior will be higher when the child receives attention for his/her behavior when compared to rates when the child received a toy following his/her behavior.
I have simplified the description of the analysis in order to show readers the difference between an FBA and a functional analysis. Many functional analysis conditions can be completed and they may be quite complicated depending on the child’s behavior and other relevant information.
By definition, a functional analysis results in an increase in challenging behavior in some or all conditions. Thus, only appropriately trained people should oversee the design and implementation of such conditions. Additionally, the functional analysis results may be influenced by the implementor, the setting, the language in which the instructions are given, and other variables. Thus, the functional analysis should be completed in conditions that are as close to the natural setting as possible (including people, materials, and location).
Finally, the functional analysis ALWAYS results in a graph depicting the results of the analysis.
I hope this helps clarify the difference between the two procedures.
If you have questions about behavior be sure to email Missy at askmissy at appliedbehavioralstrategies dot com.

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