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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 comes from Amanda who is employed as a behavior analyst in a school district. Amanda’s question actually came in following a webinar that Rebecca and I provided on Special Education Law and Ethics for Behavior Analysts.

During the webinar, we discussed the importance of acquiring parent permission before conducting any assessment on a child with an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Of course, this also includes obtaining written permission for conducting a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA).

As a result, Amanda asked this question:

“First of all, our district completes FBA’s as well as something we refer to as Behavior Observations. Let me explain how we are distinguishing the difference between the two.

Behavior observations are completed by the BCBAs. They consist of multiple observations and data collection using tools such as an ABC form, frequency data collection, and/or momentary time sampling. Based on the data we collect, we hypothesize a function of the behavior and develop written recommendations.

When an FBA is completed it incorporates more parts such as the observations, interviews, and questionnaires such as the MAS and the FAST. Once all this data is summarized a function is hypothesized and written recommendations are made.

I am wondering if what we are considering to be a behavior observation is actually a shortened FBA?”

Amanda, first, thank you for taking the time to write. Many parents and behavior analysts alike do not realize that an FBA requires written parental consent PRIOR to its commencement. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, school personnel must obtain written permission before conducting any assessment or evaluation on a child with disabilities (including behavior disorders or autism).

Second, you are absolutely correct in guessing that both steps you have described above (behavioral observations and the FBA) are in fact, FBAs. Had you merely observed a child and made verbal recommendations to the teacher about how to respond to certain behaviors, then a behavioral observation is probably appropriate without parental consent. However, since you collected data, analyzed the data, and formed a written opinion about why the behavior was occurring, regardless of what your district calls it, the procedure was still a functional behavioral assessment and required written parental permission prior to its commencement.

We want to hear from readers. Does your district obtain your written consent prior to completing an FBA? Has your child’s district ever completed an FBA on your child?

If you have questions about behavior that you would like assistance on, please email Missy at askmissy at appliedbehavioralstrategies dot com.

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