How can Ms. Rollison determine why Joseph behaves the way he does?
Page 4: Conduct a Functional Behavioral Assessment
Think back to the Challenge at the beginning of this module and to the problem behaviors that Joseph was exhibiting—smart-aleck comments, rude remarks, teasing. Ms. Rollison has been unsuccessful in changing Joseph’s disruptive behavior, so she decides to seek help from her school’s pre-referral intervention team (i.e., the S-Team). She explains to the team members the various behavior management techniques she has implemented so far, and shows them the data she has collected. Ms. Thibodeaux, a special education teacher and member of the S-Team, suggests that—in situations when basic classroom management techniques and behavioral interventions are ineffective at addressing challenging behaviors—it is often helpful to take a closer look at a student’s behavior. The S-Team discusses whether it would be appropriate to conduct a functional behavioral assessment (FBA).
An FBA is used to determine the function of the behavior and the factors that maintain it. It helps teachers to understand the reason(s) (i.e., the function or functions) for a student’s behavior and then to use this information to design an intervention that will help the student learn a new, more acceptable method of getting what he or she wants. In many cases, challenging behaviors are an inappropriate way for a student to either obtain something desired (e.g., attention, a tangible item) or avoid something not preferred (e.g., a task or activity). For example, the function of Cheralynn’s behavior was to avoid class work, and the factor that negatively reinforced the behavior was getting sent out of the classroom. An FBA should be considered when basic classroom interventions are ineffective and when the behavior:
- Could cause injury to the student or others
- Is intense or occurs frequently
- Places the student at risk for referral to special education or a more restrictive placement
Functional behavioral assessments have produced desired outcomes across a wide range of settings and student behaviors.
- The FBA process has been used effectively in general education settings to reduce problem behaviors, such as noncompliance and task avoidance, as well as to increase desired behaviors, such as academic engagement and participation.
(Lane, Weisenbach, Little, Phillips, & Wehby, 2007; Lane, Rogers, Parks, Weisenbach, Mau, Merwin, & Bergman, 2007)
- ELL students in general education classrooms who received function-based interventions showed reduced levels of task-avoidance behaviors and increases in their academic engagement, demonstrating levels from 69% to 94%.
(Preciado, Horner, & Baker, 2009)
- In schools that use a three-tiered behavior intervention process (e.g., PBIS), FBA has demonstrated success as a tertiary intervention.
(Lane et al., 2007)
- Research into function-based intervention has demonstrated its effectiveness with students with severe disabilities, multiple disabilities, ADHD, and learning disabilities, and those with or at risk for emotional or behavioral disorders (EBD).
(Burke, Hagan-Burke, & Sugai, 2003; Dunlap, Kern-Dunlap, Clarke, & Robbins, 1991; Ervin, DuPaul, Kern, & Friman, 1998; Hagan-Burke, Burke, & Sugai, 2007)
The S-Team members acknowledge that Joseph’s behaviors occur frequently and disrupt the learning environment. A review of his file indicates that Ms. Rollison had tried other appropriate interventions but with no success. At this point, they determine that an FBA is warranted. At Ms. Rollison’s school, education professionals such as behavior analysts, school counselors, and special educators are typically involved in the FBA process. At other schools, a different constellation of professionals might be involved. Regardless of who takes part in it, the process includes the following steps:
- Determine the Behavior’s Function
- Step 1: Identify and define problem and replacement behaviors
- Step 2: Collect data
- Step 3: Identify the function of the behavior
- Develop and Implement a Function-Based Intervention
- Step 4: Design a function-based intervention
- Step 5: Maximize intervention success
- Step 6: Implement the intervention
- Evaluate the Effectiveness of the Intervention
- Step 7: Evaluate the intervention
For Your Information
Functional behavioral assessments are often:
- Used in schools that implement multi-tiered systems of support for general and special education students with behavioral problems
- Conducted with students who exhibit severe or chronic behavioral issues that have not been resolved by less intensive interventions