Functional Behavior Assessments

Functional Behavior Assessments Video

While many classroom behaviors tend to fall along a spectrum that’s appropriate, there might be instances in which a student exhibits conduct that is so problematic that it prevents the student from learning. If classrooms find themselves in these circumstances, the teacher may conduct a functional behavior assessment to identify the behavior and then change it. In this video, we will learn about what a functional behavior assessment is, who participates in them, what information they provide, and how it can be helpful. Let’s get started!

Functional Behavior Assessment

A functional behavior assessment, also known as an FBA, is an evaluation that solely focuses on behavior. The objective of the FBA is to help schools identify and understand challenging behaviors, as well as create possible solutions. This process focuses on school behaviors, instead of behaviors that might take place at home. FBAs were designed based on the principles of applied behavioral analysis, also known as ABA, and closely considers the cause of the behavior in order to help figure out the specific intervention best suited to resolve the issue. In other words, the premise is that understanding why a behavior is occurring can help create a more focused and effective way to help.

Students with disabilities are protected under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, also known as IDEA. Any member of the student’s IEP team can request an FBA if the student’s behavior hinders their learning or if they believe that it is interfering with their peers’ learning. This request is typically made after the classroom has already attempted behavioral strategies that have not been successful, and the student’s behavior continues to impact their academic progress. In addition, an FBA is required to be done if a student has been suspended for more than 10 school days in a year. This assessment is viewed as part of the student’s individualized learning plan.

The first step is identifying the behavior. For this to be done successfully, it is important to pinpoint the exact behavior and define it concretely and in measurable terms. It is also important to look at how frequently this behavior is taking place, how intense the behavior is, and how long it lasts. If the behavior is not severe, it might require some conversations, a few observations, and ultimately a behavior plan. But for more severe behaviors, the FBA becomes more detailed, includes conversations with the child study team and teachers, and involves many direct observations of the student.

The next step is to recognize the function of the behavior, which means the reason that the behavior is taking place. There is a variety of reasons that children display certain behaviors, including a desire to access something they are being told they can’t, to gain attention, to escape an unwanted situation, or possibly because it is a behavior they are comfortable with and has previously been reinforced. The FBA also looks at what is happening around the child when this behavior is occurring. For example, were they alone? Or does it happen more when there are large groups of students? Specifically with disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder, it is just as valuable to look at the circumstances around the child as it is to look at the behavior itself. Because of this, in an FBA the evaluator also pays close attention to what is sometimes referred to as the ABCs: the A, antecedent, meaning what happens right before the behavior, the B, the behavior itself, and C, the consequence, or the response from the teacher and other students directly after the behavior. This kind of analysis provides insight into what the child is gaining from the behavior.


Following an evaluation, the teacher, parents, and service providers, along with the person conducting the evaluation, must meet together to discuss results and determine next steps. Here, the child study team does their best to look at the data and connect the behavior with its purpose. The information is used to help assist the student with the isolated behavior and set goals. Just like academic goals that would take place on the IEP, it is important that these behavioral goals be measurable, clear, and specific.

Furthermore, when reducing a targeted behavior, the student should be taught an appropriate replacement behavior. Replacement behaviors should serve the same purpose as the problem behaviors. You could, for example, replace the behavior of the student constantly leaving their seat with the behavior of the student remaining at their desk and then standing up for pre-scheduled breaks every 15 minutes. Or as another example, allowing a student to chew gum or squeeze a stress ball instead of hitting or biting the other students. The FBA should set expectations of when this goal should be accomplished, as well as what amount of achievement would be considered successful. It has also been shown that utilizing the student’s strengths and weaknesses in the intervention process is helpful, as well as taking into account how successful past interventions have been.

Depending on the school and the role, who conducts the FBA varies. But always, the special education teacher plays a very important part. They need to not only participate as a member of the FBA team but also engage in the development and monitoring of the FBA. They often are called on to collect data, identify which behaviors have become the most limiting for the student, and suggest alternative behaviors in the classroom. In addition, the special education teacher is critical in implementing the agreed-upon plan consistently in order for it to be successful.

The main goal of a functional behavior assessment is to increase the student’s behavior skills to help them function more independently and successfully in a classroom environment. Identifying positive and productive behaviors to put in place helps support the student as they continue throughout their schooling.

That’s it for today! Thanks for watching and happy assessing.

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by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: February 9, 2024