A functional behavioral assessment is usually considered to be a problem-solving process for addressing student problem behavior for students with disabilities. . It relies on a variety of techniques and strategies to identify the purposes of specific behavior and to help Individual Education Plan (IEP) teams select interventions to directly address the problem behavior. Functional behavioral assessment should be integrated, as appropriate, throughout the process of developing, reviewing, and, if necessary, revising a student’s IEP.
One way for the IEP team to judge the significance of the behavior exhibited by the student of concern is to pose the following questions:
•Does the student’s behavior significantly differ from that of his/her classmates?
•Does the student’s behavior lessen the possibility of successful learning for the student and others?
•Have past efforts to address the student’s behavior using standard interventions been unsuccessful?
•Does the student’s behavior represent a behavioral deficit or excess, rather than a cultural difference?
•Is the student’s behavior serious, persistent, chronic, or a threat to the safety of the student or others?
•If the behavior persists, is some disciplinary action likely to result?
Information from a variety of assessment techniques should lead the IEP team to better understand the problem behavior. Depending on the nature of the behavior of concern, it is crucial that multiple means be used to collect information about the behavior. Some of this information may include a review of the student’s records (educational and medical), along with an evaluation of a sample of the student’s academic products (e.g., in-class assignments, tests, homework). In addition, the use of various observation procedures; questionnaires; interviews with parents, teachers, and other school personnel (e.g., bus driver, cafeteria workers, playground monitors), as well as interviews with the student; and perhaps medical consultation should allow data collection tailored to produce information that will help the IEP team to better understand the causes of the specific problem behavior.
A functional behavioral assessment looks beyond the behavior itself. The focus when conducting a functional behavioral assessment is on identifying significant, pupil-specific social, affective, cognitive, and/or environmental factors associated with the occurrence (and non-occurrence) of specific behaviors. This broader perspective offers a better understanding of the function or purpose behind student behavior. Behavioral intervention plans based on an understanding of "why" a student misbehaves are extremely useful in addressing a wide range of problem behaviors.
In the next few articles, more information on functional behavioral assessments and the creation of behavior intervention plans will be discussed.