Monday, May 13, 2019

Understanding a Functional Behavior Assessment

BY PENNY WILLIAMSNATALIE ENGLER

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Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA)

School expectations include a lot more than just good grades. Behavior at school is a fundamental component of “academic success.” A Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) is used to determine why a student has particular unwanted or inappropriate behaviors — understanding the triggers and reasons behind behaviors is an essential first step toward changing those behaviors.

When to Request

Is your child struggling to follow the school’s behavior guidelines? Is he getting in trouble frequently at school? Are the school’s tactics used to address problem behaviors ineffective? Is your child experiencing a lot of school-related stress? If so, it’s time to request a Functional Behavior Assessment.

How to Request

Here’s a sample letter you can use as a template when writing your own letter to request a FBA.
[Date]
Dear [name of Special Education Director]:
My child, [full name and student ID# or date of birth] attends [school name]. [child’s name]’s behavior is beginning to interfere with his/her ability to learn and meet expectations. Here are the reasons for my concern:
[List your specific behavior concerns, such as]
  • He/she does not know how to appropriately manage emotions.
  • He/she flees the classroom when stressed or overwhelmed.
  • He/she is frequently hitting peers.
  • He/she is avoiding classwork.
  • He/she is disruptive when finished with classwork.
  • He/she tears up papers when frustrated.
  • He/she talks too much during class.
Please conduct  a functional behavior assessment (FBA) for [child’s name]’s, under the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This letter serves as my formal request and grants consent for the school to conduct an FBA.
I understand that a professional team will be assembled to conduct and review the FBA and develop an appropriate behavior intervention plan (BIP) for [child’s name]’s. I expect to be an active participant on the team for both the assessment of behavior and to develop the BIP.
I hope that this request can be expedited as [child’s name] has already been punished for behavior on [number of times] occasions this school year. [If your child has been suspended, note the number of times and dates.]
Please contact me at your earliest convenience so we can begin the functional behavior assessment process and address [child’s name] behavior more effectively.
Sincerely,
Parent

The Tests

The functional behavior assessment does not include any testing, but often includes classroom observation by the behavior specialist who will be facilitating the assessment meetings and process.
The FBA team should include:
  • Behavior specialist (most school systems have these professionals on staff)
  • Parent(s)
  • Classroom teachers
  • Special education teachers
  • Other school personnel that work with your child frequently (guidance counselor, speech therapist, occupational therapist, school psychologist, etc.)
  • Principal and/or Vice-Principal
  • Your child (when appropriate)

The Time Required

It could take a few weeks to complete an FBA and draft and implement the Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP). Sometimes it’s difficult to align team members’ schedules.
The behavior specialist will first observe the student in the classroom. Then the FBA meeting can take place, which will last 1-4 hours, depending on the number of behaviors to analyze and each individual member’s ability to agree. From the outcome of the FBA, a BIP is drafted and distributed for implementation at school.
The FBA requires a fixed structure for the meeting — in essence determining the who, what, when, where, and why for each behavior. The meeting should:
  1. List and describe the inappropriate/unwanted behaviors, including what they look like specifically. Also note if there is aggression, violence, or destruction of property and if the behavior is a danger to self or others.
  2. Determine where each behavior is and isn’t happening.
  3. List the frequency of occurrence.
  4. Discuss who is involved when each behavior takes place.
  5. Discuss any potential environmental factors that lead to the behavior.
  6. Identify possible perceived functions for each behavior.
  7. Talk about the antecedents (what happens immediately before the behavior) and consequences (what happens immediately after the behavior).
  8. Define appropriate evidence-based strategies to effectively address the function of each behavior.

The Outcome

Once the FBA is completed, a Behavior Intervention Plan should be created. This document should identify each behavior listed in the FBA, and the associated strategies to be employed when these behaviors occur. Each intervention should focus on skill development when applicable, as that will be more successful in changing the behavior than simply behavior management.
Educators should track the goals and measurements for the BIP to monitor the effectiveness of the interventions and further identify which strategies are effective, and which strategies need to be modified. The FBA should be regularly updated and fluid.

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