Functional assessment is generally considered to be a problem solving process for addressing behaviors of concern. Functional behavior assessments look beyond diagnostic labels or the overt topography in order to obtain information that can be used to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of behavioral supports.
A functional assessment is complete when five main outcomes have been achieved:
1. Operationally defined problem behaviors
2. Identification of events and situations which predict when the target behavior will and will not occur.
3. Identification of what functions the behaviors appear to serve
4. Development of summary statements which describe explicit behaviors, type of situation in which these behaviors occur, and the outcomes (or reinforcers) maintaining them in that situation and,
5. Collection of direct observation data that supports the summary statements that have been developed.
A central reason for conducting a functional behavior assessment is to obtain information about when and where the challenging behavior is occurring in order to determine why the behavior occurs.
By understanding relationships between the environment and the challenging behaviors, the assumption is that we can "develop plans of behavioral support that (a) will be more effective (b) wil be more efficient, and (c) will produce broader change in the lifestyle of the individual with problem behaviors" (O'Neill et al, 1997).
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA] is a United States federal law that governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to children with disabilities. The IDEA addresses the educational needs of children with disabilities from birth thru age 21.
The IDEA became law in 1975, having most recently been amended in 2004. Under the guidelines set forth by IDEA 2004, "determining whether a child needs positive behavior interventions and supports is an individual determination that is made by each child's IEP team. Additionally, IDEA 2004 states, under 34 CFR 300.324(a)(2)(i), that "the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports must be considered in the case of a child whose behavior impedes his or her learning or that of others".
As each state has different expectations and interpretations of situations which warrant Functional Behavior Assessments, individuals are encouraged to research the rules and regulations specified by their states' Department of Education or other appropriate governing agency.
How to Conduct a Functional Assessment and Develop Behavior Plans to Reduce Problem Behavior by Vincent Carbone Gina Zecchin
1. Alberto, P. C., Troutman, A. C. (1999). Applied behavior analysis for teachers (5th ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill.