Academic journal article School Psychology Review

The Use of Classroom-Based Brief Functional Analyses with Preschoolers At-Risk for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

The Use of Classroom-Based Brief Functional Analyses with Preschoolers At-Risk for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Article excerpt

Abstract. The efficacy of using brief functional analysis procedures in preschool classrooms for students at-risk for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was assessed. Participants in this study were 3 boys, ranging in age from 4-11 to 5-1. In their preschool classrooms, each of the boys exhibited frequent aggressive behavior that was deemed unmanageable by the teachers. Results of the functional analyses indicated that the aggressive behavior was maintained by either positive or negative reinforcement contingencies. For all 3 boys, the interventions developed from the functional analyses reduced problem behavior to zero or near-zero levels when implemented by either the consultant or teacher. Results are discussed in relation to the utility and practicality of implementing functional assessment procedures as a means of early intervention for children identified as at-risk for ADHD.

Functional analysis procedures have emerged as a useful method of identifying environmental events (e.g., positive reinforcement) maintaining problem behavior. Typically, the goal of functional analysis is to identify the maintaining contingencies in order to prescribe efficient behavioral interventions (Iwata, Dorsey, Slifer, Bauman, & Richman, 1982). Functional analyses have also been used to assess antecedent (e.g., task difficulty) or contextual (e.g., structure of classroom environment) factors that influence behavior. The effectiveness of functional analysis procedures has been demonstrated across various populations and problem behaviors, typically in clinic or analogue settings. In recent years, however, functional analyses have been conducted in more naturalistic environments such as school settings (Broussard & Northup, 1995; Cooper et al., 1992; Dunlap, KernDunlap, Clarke, & Robbins, 1991; Ervin, DuPaul, Kern, & Friman, 1998; Northup et al., 1994; Umbreit, 1995). In fact, the reauthorized Individua ls with Disabilities Act (1997) requires school-based functional behavioral assessments for students with disabilities who are facing disciplinary action for inappropriate behavior.

Examples of functional assessments conducted in school settings were reported by Dunlap et al. (1991) and Dunlap et al. (1993) who conducted functional assessments for children described as seriously emotionally disturbed. In these studies, functional assessments were used to generate a number of hypotheses regarding the effects of curriculum and instructional variables. Successful interventions were developed that were linked to the instructional and curriculum variables. These recent extensions of functional analysis procedures suggest that this methodology may be applicable to more prevalent disruptive behaviors occurring in general education classrooms (Broussard & Northup, 1995).

Although possible to implement in school settings, functional analysis procedures involving manipulation of environmental events to assess their effect on behavior may be too lengthy and cumbersome for widespread use. However, brief functional analysis procedures have emerged as a useful and time-efficient methodology for determining the variables influencing problem behaviors in children in clinical and school settings. For example, Cooper et al. (1992) used brief functional analysis procedures as a means to assess conduct problems for children of average intelligence and demonstrated that the children's behavior problems varied systematically with levels of parental and teacher attention and the difficulty of academic demands. Umbreit (1995) investigated the usefulness of conducting a brief functional analysis plus a curriculum-based assessment with an 8-year-old boy with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADED) in a general education classroom setting. Results showed that the intervention derived fr om the assessment resulted in an increase in appropriate behavior and a decrease in disruptive behavior.

Although there have been recent studies using functional analyses in schools, a majority of these studies have been implemented with elementary-school-aged children with disruptive behaviors. …

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