Solutions and Hope for Severe Behaviors: The Development of Functional Behavioral Assessment

By DeLeon, Iser; Silverman, Wayne | The Exceptional Parent, February 2008 | Go to article overview

Solutions and Hope for Severe Behaviors: The Development of Functional Behavioral Assessment


DeLeon, Iser, Silverman, Wayne, The Exceptional Parent


Virtually every parent has at one time had the heart wrenching experience of seeing his or her child in pain. Sometimes it's an illness, sometimes a fall, but luckily, this doesn't happen very often. When it does, the pain is usually momentary, and a little tenderness, maybe along with a band-aid, is all it takes to "make it go away." An occasional trip to the family doctor might be necessary, but the long-term consequences are rarely serious. Imagine, though, having to see your child injured on a regular basis, often seriously. Then think about what it must be like to see your child inflict those injuries upon him or herself. This is the everyday reality faced by parents of children with self-injurious behaviors. Fortunately, these types of disorders are only seen in a small minority of people with developmental disabilities, as are other serious problem behaviors like aggression and violence. But when they do occur, the financial and emotional costs are enormous.

Severe behavior disorders are among the most perplexing conditions encountered by clinicians, and as a front page article in this past Christmas Day's New York Times illustrates ("Parents defend school's use of shock therapy"), treatment options remain a topic of contentious debate. Not all that long ago physical restraint was the only option, the goal being to make it literally impossible for affected individuals to do things like punch themselves in the face or bang their heads against walls (envision straight-jackets and padded cells). More recently, drugs have been used to medicate those affected, essentially restraining them chemically. These methods, though usually provided with the best intentions, do nothing to address underlying causes, and, of course, they restrained a lot more than just problem behaviors. Fortunately, there are now far better options, and while there is still a long way to go, real help is available for an ever-increasing number of affected individuals.

Research has established that most forms of severe behavior problems are sensitive to the surroundings, suggesting that they serve a "useful" purpose for the affected individual. The fact that these behaviors are often, though not always, sensitive to the reactions of other people provides important opportunities for successful intervention. Perhaps the most significant innovation over the past several decades has been an expanded emphasis on understanding the exact circumstances that "trigger" problem behaviors and the consequences that serve to maintain (or reinforce) them. Once it is determined these conditions can be changed, it often produces a corresponding reduction (or even elimination) of the behavior problems. These methods are known collectively as functional behavioral assessment.

Over the last 20 years or so, several approaches to conducting functional assessments have been under development and refinement. These methods vary with respect to their ease of implementation, but they all strive to determine the regularity with which certain events precede (likely triggers) and follow (likely maintaining consequences--or reinforcers) behaviors of concern, allowing clinicians to make informed guesses about what does and does not cause those behaviors. Indirect assessments are the easiest to do and involve in-depth interviews with parents, teachers, and other caregivers, while detailed and extensive observations of everyday behavior is much more labor intensive. Both of these can be effective, but a third approach, experimental functional analysis, is currently regarded as the "gold standard." It involves systematic manipulation of circumstances to determine their effects on behavior directly. Several conditions are typically arranged to test different hypotheses, and each of these are compared to a control condition lacking the suspected triggers or reinforcers. By comparing levels of the problem behavior during the "test" and "control" conditions, clinicians can often determine exactly what causes the behaviors. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Solutions and Hope for Severe Behaviors: The Development of Functional Behavioral Assessment
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.