Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Concept Maps: A Practical Solution for Completing Functional Behavior Assessments

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Concept Maps: A Practical Solution for Completing Functional Behavior Assessments

Article excerpt


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 (IDEA '97) mandates that schools conduct a functional behavior assessment (FBA) when a student exhibits significant behavior problems. District and school level staff are now attempting to understand and implement the new requirements for the FBA process. The purpose of this article is to present a computerized concept-mapping program that can be used to display information gathered about student behaviors of concern. Concept maps can facilitate organizing information visually, understanding the interconnections needed for identifying the behaviors that impede the learning process and identifying interventions that may or may not lead to an FBA and a behavioral intervention plan (BIP). When conducting an FBA and writing a BIP, a computerized concept map facilitates the discussion by displaying multiple sources of information on one page.


Individuals with Disabilities Act Amendments of 1997 (IDEA '97) require school districts to conduct functional behavior assessments (FBA) for students with disabilities: "in the case of a child whose behavior impedes his or her learning or that of others," ss 614 (c) (1) (B) (i). In addition, an "unidentified" child whose behavior has violated a school rule or code of conduct is protected by IDEA '97 if the district had knowledge that the child had a disability (Weatherly, 1998). "Prior knowledge" is established if the parent expressed concern in writing that the behavior demonstrated a need for services or requested an evaluation or if school personnel expressed concern about the student's behavior to personnel of the local education agency (Friend, 1998). As a result in one Florida school district, students with and without disabilities are now being referred for functional assessments when their behavior impacts the learning environment (Bay District Schools, 1999).

An FBA is a process of gathering information about problem behavior and identifying the variables that hypothetically evoke and maintain the behavior (Larson & Maag, 1998). Information is gathered through direct and indirect observations, interviews, and evaluations (Drasgow, Yell, Bradley, & Shiner, 1999). Based on the information collected, a hypothesis is developed identifying the function and purpose of the behavior, possible skill deficiencies (Ruff, Higgins, & Glaeser, 1998), and setting and contextual events that maintain the behaviors (Drasgow et al., 1999; Larson & Maag, 1998; Scott & Nelson, 1999). Behavioral interventions, contextual interventions or both are identified and a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) is then written. The purpose of an EBA and a BIP is to establish positive, proactive procedures to reduce or eliminate the challenging behaviors (Ruff et al., 1998) and improve student performance (Creel, Larsen, & Murphy, 1999).

Students with mild disabilities can exhibit a variety of behaviors that may serve multiple functions, that can be diverse, can vary according to the context (Larson & Maag, 1998), and can occur in complex social settings within multiple environments (Drasgow et al., 1999). This can also be said of students in general education classes who are exhibiting behaviors of concern. Multiple functions make it difficult to identify and isolate variables that trigger and maintain the behaviors. As a result, assessments need to be conducted across settings. Further, the intended outcomes of functional assessments are a departure from current discipline and assessment practices (Hendrickson, Gable, Conroy, Fox, & Smith, 1999) and a deviation from the traditional deficit model that identifies weaknesses within the student (Epstein, 1998). Functional assessments are more prescriptive (Nelson, Roberts, Rutherford, Mathur, & Aaroe, 1999; O'Neill, Homer, Albin, Sprague, & Newton, 1997) and focus on the use of proactive and po sitive interventions in order to provide the student with the skills to function in all environments. …

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