Academic journal article Exceptional Children

The Effects of Team-Based Functional Assessment on the Behavior of Students in Classroom Settings

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

The Effects of Team-Based Functional Assessment on the Behavior of Students in Classroom Settings

Article excerpt

Challenging behavior has been defined as any behavior that interferes with children's learning and development or that is harmful to children and to others (Bailey & Wolery, 1992). Challenging behavior may include self-injury, stereotypy or repetitive behaviors, aggression, negative peer interaction, disruptive behavior, tantruming, and noncompliance.

The prevalence of challenging behavior is greater among individuals with disabilities than it is among typically developing individuals. Several studies have documented high rates of self-injurious behavior, stereotypic behavior, destructive and aggressive behaviors, and noncompliance among persons with disabilities (e.g., Fidura, Lindsey, & Walker, 1987; Oliver, Murphy, & Corbett, 1987; Walker, 1993).

Challenging behavior in classroom settings requires inordinate amounts of educators' time and effort, decreases the amount of time available for promoting appropriate behavior, and may result in referral for more restrictive placement (Biklen, 1987; McGee & Daly, 1999; Repp & Karsh, 1990; Rhode, Jenson, & Reavis, 1992). Children who engage in challenging behavior have fewer opportunities for positive interactions with others in their environment. This can lead to isolation and poor self-esteem for the child, avoidance of the child by peers, and negative interactions with adults and children (Carr, Taylor, & Robinson, 1991; Chandler, Fowler, & Lubeck, 1992).

Many educators do not have adequate training in the prevention and remediation of challenging behavior (Carr, Langdon, & Yarbrough, 1999; Nelson, Roberts, Mathur, & Rutherford, 1998; Rhode et al., 1992; Watkins & Durant, 1992). This often results in failure to address challenging behavior, or the application of punishment techniques (Arndorfer, Miltenberger, Woster, Rortvedt, & Gaffaney, 1994). It also may result in the adoption of ineffective strategies. Although numerous strategies and interventions have been described in the educational and behavioral literature, there are few guidelines to assist educators and parents in selecting one strategy over another in order to prevent and remediate challenging behavior (Kern & Dunlap, 1999; Munk & Karsh, 1999; Repp, Karsh, Munk, & Dahlquist, 1995). Intervention strategies may be selected that do not address the function of the behavior, or the relationship between the behavior and the environment affecting the behavior (Foster-Johnson & Dunlap, 1993; Repp & Horner, 1999). Strategies also may be selected that do not promote the acquisition of appropriate behavior to replace challenging behavior (Carr, Robinson, & Palumbo, 1990; Carr et al., 1999).

Functional assessment is an assessment and intervention process that assists educators in identifying the factors that produce and support challenging behavior (Chandler & Dahlquist, 1999; Munk & Repp, 1994; Repp & Horner, 1999). Functional assessment uses non-punitive interventions to prevent and remediate challenging behavior and facilitates the development of appropriate behaviors. In functional assessment, educators assess the environmental conditions that set the occasion for and maintain challenging behavior and appropriate behavior. Then, based on assessment information, they develop a positive, individualized intervention plan that (a) changes the environmental variables that contribute to challenging behavior and, at the same time, (b) provides support for appropriate behavior that achieves the same function as the challenging behavior. For example, functional assessment would determine if, when a child runs out of the classroom, the function or effect is to obtain attention (positive reinforcement), avoid an activity (negative reinforcement), or to change activity level (sensory regulation). The intervention selected would be related to the function of behavior. For example, if running out of the classroom functioned to produce attention, the intervention would teach the child a more appropriate and efficient means of obtaining attention, such as calling the teacher's name. …

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