Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

A Statewide Survey of Special Education Administrators and School Psychologists regarding Functional Behavioral Assessment

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

A Statewide Survey of Special Education Administrators and School Psychologists regarding Functional Behavioral Assessment

Article excerpt

Abstract

The 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandate that schools evaluate, through the process of a functional behavioral assessment, those students with disabilities who are exhibiting significant behavior problems which may lead to suspension and expulsion. We conducted a statewide survey of special education administrators and school psychologists to examine their views of the relative effectiveness, usability, suitability, and practicability of functional behavioral assessment procedures for two types of problem behaviors (i.e., low-level chronic or low frequency unique problem behaviors). The results suggest that special education administrators and school psychologists are generally supportive of the use of functional behavioral assessments for a range of problem behaviors. However, administrators and psychologists are uncertain of whether such assessments would be acceptable for unique low-frequency problem behaviors that lead to suspension and expulsion such as violat ions of firearms and drug policies. Additionally, special education administrators and school psychologists indicated that educators might be unaware of and unwilling to conduct functional behavioral assessments. Implications for practice and future research needs are discussed.

Functional behavioral assessment (FBA) will play a large role in the education of students with disabilities given the 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Within the section on discipline, these amendments require that the IEP team consider positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports if a student with disabilities has behavior problems (Discipline Provisions, 1997). Further the behavior intervention plan must be based on a FBA. In this context, it is of interest to explore the views of special education administrators and school psychologists regarding the effectiveness, usability, suitability and practicability of FBA.

Exploring special education administrators' and school psychologists views of FBA is important because there is little doubt that they will play a key role in their implementation for two primary reasons. The first reason centers on the fact that there is little agreement in the field of applied behavior analysis regarding the specific procedures that educators and other professionals should use when conducting an EBA (Nelson, Roberts, Mathur, & Rutherford, 1999). Compounding this issue, the concepi of functional assessment is encompassed within intervention and services in a wide range of fields related to special education including occupational therapy (Velozo, 1993), speech and language pathology (Frattali, 1992), physical therapy (Wickstrom, 1990), and vocational rehabilitation (Halphren & Fuhrer, 1984). Thus, there is little doubt that educators and other professionals will struggle in their efforts to develop FBA processes and procedures required in the IDEA '97 amendments.

A second reason we believe that special education administrators and school psychologists will play a key role in the implementation of FBA focuses on differing interpretations of when a FBA should be conducted, There are essentially two potential contexts for conducting FBAs: strict and broad interpretation of IDEA '97 (National Association of State Directors of Special Education, 1998).

Strictly and literally speaking,, FBA is required only when students with disabilities become the subject of school discipline proceedings. Section 615(k)(l)(B) (I) of the statute states: "Either before or not later than 10 days after taking a disciplinary action described in subparagraph (A).. .if the local education agency did not conduct a functional behavioral assessment and implement a behavioral intervention plan for such child before the behavior that resulted in the suspension described in subparagraph (A), the agency shall convene an IEP meeting to develop an assessment plan to address the behavior. …

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