Academic journal article International Journal of Emotional Education

Investigation on the Practice of the Functional Behavioral Assessment: Survey of Educators and Their Experiences in the Field

Academic journal article International Journal of Emotional Education

Investigation on the Practice of the Functional Behavioral Assessment: Survey of Educators and Their Experiences in the Field

Article excerpt

Introduction

In 1997, the President of the United States of America (USA), William Jefferson Clinton, signed the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA; U.S. Department of Education, 2015) that included new standards to elevate the quality of education for students with disabilities, particularly those individuals with emotional/behavioral disorders (EBD). Prior to this legislation, for many students with EBD demonstrating chronic challenging behaviors, the permanent removal from campus (i.e., expulsion) was often an eventuality as educators quickly exhausted disciplinary options (Moreno & Gaytán, 2013). In an effort to better serve students with EBD, the new legislation mandated educators to conduct a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) prior to any permanent removal of the student from a campus program based on persistent and repetitive challenging behaviors (e.g., verbal outbursts, physical aggression, deliberate property damage) that were disruptive to instruction and resistant to typical classroom management (Wheeler & Richey, 2010). More importantly, the mandate provided educators the opportunity to implement a methodical investigation to better understand contributing factors and develop a more informed behavior support plan (BSP) that assists a student rather than continuously deliver punitive consequences (Harrison & Harrison, 2009; Wheeler & Richey, 2010).

The FBA is an investigative process that allows educators to both evaluate behavioral influences and identify the function (i.e., reason) for a student's use of the challenging behavior (Wheeler & Richey, 2010). During the FBA process, educators collect and analyze qualitative (e.g., interviews, attendance records) and quantitative data (e.g., scatterplot, frequency count) to develop a hypothesis that effectively predicts the circumstances of the behavioral demonstration. With this understanding, educators can then craft a more effective BSP that accurately reinforces the demonstration of new replacement behaviors (Blood & Neel, 2007; Ingram, Lewis-Palmer, & Sugai, 2005).

In spite of the wide use of the FBA throughout the field of special education, several barriers limit the effectiveness of its practice, particularly scope and implementation (May, Sheng, Chiyito, Brandt, & Howe, 2014; Quinn et al., 2001; Strickland-Cohen & Horner, 2015). While IDEA requires educators to consider the FBA for students with disabilities (e.g., autism, intellectual disabilities) demonstrating chronic challenging behaviors, the process is often reserved exclusively for students with EBD across many schools, which significantly limits the scope of intended assistance (Quinn et al., 2001). As well, despite the knowledge of the FBA, there is not a universal implementation model of the process, nor is one outlined in IDEA (McCahill, Healy, Lydon, & Ramey, 2014). FBA implementations vary in focus and quality and lacks the consistency of a standardized practice across geographic regions (Losinski, Katsiyannis, & Ryan, 2013; Waguespack, Vaccaro, & Continere, 2006). The lack of a universal model also has allowed many schools serving diverse student populations to utilize the FBA without examination of possible cultural factors (e.g., acculturation of recent immigrant students, English language acquisition) that may be inadvertently contributing to the challenging behavior (Durán, Bloom, & Samaha, 2013; Hoover, 2009; Moreno & Gaytán, 2013; Salend & Taylor, 2002).

Although the FBA is universally regarded as the encapsulation of positive behavioral practices, the limitations in scope and implementation are worthy of closer examination (Borgmeier, Loman, Hara, & Rodriguez, 2015; Christensen, Renshaw, Calderella, & Young, 2012; May et al., 2014; Quinn et al., 2001; Weber, Killu, Derby, & Barretto, 2005). In this paper, we will review literature on the theoretical implementation of the FBA, then discuss the investigative study of educators' experience in implementing the process to assist students demonstrating chronic challenging behaviors across the field. …

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