A Truncated Functional Behavioral Assessment Procedure for Children with Disruptive Classroom Behaviors

Article excerpt


Schools are now required by law to create behavior support plans based on functional behavioral assessment (FBA) for students with behavior problems. Although FBA has been shown to be effective, there are questions as to its feasibility in the schools. In this pilot study we examined the effectiveness of a truncated FBA procedure. The FBA used a simplified procedure for the teacher to identify the function of a behavior and to formulate a hypothesis. Results suggested that the teacher was able to select the probable function of the problem behavior, formulate a summary statement and design an intervention with guidance from the researcher. Problem behavior decreased during intervention and maintenance. Teacher acceptance of the truncated FBA procedure was confirmed with a social validity questionnaire.


Functional behavioral assessment (FBA) is now mandated by the 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and is a matter of intense concern for special educators (Reid & Nelson, 2002). Educators are now required to address behavioral problems in a proactive manner. If a student with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) has behavior problems (regardless of the student's label) that result in change in placement, the multidisiplinary team is required to develop positive a positive behavioral support plan aimed at addressing the problems. The plan must be based on a FBA and should be included in the student's IEP (Yell, 1998). Additionally, if a student's placement is changed following a behavioral incident and the IEP does not contain a behavioral support plan, a FBA and behavior plan must be completed within 10 days of the change in placement.

Among researchers, FBA is commonly understood to mean a process of assessment that involves identifying possible relations between environmental events and the occurrence or non-occurrence of problem behavior (Dunlap, et al., 1993). FBA is not an intervention; rather, it is a process that is intended to help identify the most appropriate and effective interventions. The results of a FBA can be used to develop a behavior support plan. FBA is predicated on three assumptions: (1) behavior is purposeful and serves a function for the child (e.g. a child may perform a behavior to escape from an unpleasant situation or gain attention), (2) behavior is caused by the interactions of environmental factors (i.e., antecedents and consequents) and factors inherent to the student (e.g. skill repertoire), and (3) identification of these factors can lead to effective intervention.

FBA typically involves a three-step process (Dunlap & Kern, 1993). First, hypotheses pertaining to the underlying function of the problem behavior (or behavioral intent) are developed. These hypotheses identify environmental and intrapersonal factors that may serve to cue or maintain problem behavior. Typically, hypotheses are based on data collected from multiple sources (e.g. permanent records, teacher interviews, student interviews, and direct observations) and are directly testable. Second, hypotheses are tested by directly manipulating the factors thought to be related to behavior. Testing may be done in the classroom (naturalistic) or in a special setting (analog). Structured hypothesis testing, termed functional analysis may be used. In this technique, a number of brief sessions are conducted in which environmental factors and behavioral contingencies that are known to be functionally related to behavior (e.g. escape, attention) are directly manipulated. This has the effect of telescoping hypothesis development and testing and can be accomplished very efficiently as it potentially reduces the time needed for data collection dramatically. Results are evaluated to determine which factors appear to be related to behavior and which have the greatest positive effect on behavior. Finally, interventions based on the results of hypothesis testing are implemented and evaluated for effectiveness. …


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