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FBA (Functional Behaviour Assessment) Overview


A Functional Behaviour Assessment (FBA) is a highly effective and invaluable method of determining factors that reliably predict and maintain problem behaviour. Antecedents are the variables that predict or ‘trigger’ behaviour and reinforcers are factors that maintain the behaviour. (See post on Understanding Antecedents)

An FBA assesses how an individual interacts with their environment, physical and social, to determine why, where and when problem behaviour occurs, but equally importantly, the reasons (function) for periods of good or neutral behaviour.

Common Functions of Behaviour

  • Social positive reinforcement (attention-seeking)
  • Automatic positive reinforcement
  • Tangible reinforcement (to gain access to things or activities)
  • Social negative reinforcement (escape/avoidance)
  • Automatic Negative Reinforcement
  • Communication
  • Control
  • Obsessive/Compulsiveness
  • Fear or phobic responses to specific stimuli
  • Revenge

Objectives of an FBA

  1. Altering antecedent variables
  2. Altering consequence variables ie. reinforcers
  3. Teaching alternative behaviours

All the above strategies when implemented correctly and together will, alongside a detailed IBSP (Individual Behaviour Support Plan), serve to reduce and avoid problem behavior and improve an individual’s quality of life.

Planning the FBA & Points to Consider Prior to Commencing FBA

  1. Identifying, discussing and defining problem behaviours
  2. Gathering background info
  3. Deciding what additional info is required
  4. What data-collection methods will be used
  5. Who will be conducting FBA? Most effective with more than one staff member
  6. Who will be observing/collecting the information? – Designated, trained front-line staff
  7. They will need training in the correct use of FBA specific data-collection

Stages of an FBA

  1. Define behaviours of concern in-depth
    1. Identify all behaviours of concern including group behaviours ie, hits, kicks, punches, identify chains of behaviour & how student escalates from one behaviour to the next
  1. Gather Information via Indirect & Direct Assessment:
    1. Conduct Indirect Assessment – Indirect as they do not include direct observation of the individual but instead solicit information based on others recollections of behaviour. Interview all personnel involved in care/education of the individual, also review individual’s files, incident reports, questionnaire, evaluations etc. (Use interview form – O’Neill to keep the interview focused and efficient)
    2. Conduct Direct Observation Assessment (Descriptive Functional Behavior Assessment)
    3. ABC Continuous Recording
    4. ABC Narrative Recording
    5. Use this specific F A observation form (O’Neill)
    6. Scatterplots
    7. MAS for triangulation
  1. Summarise Results of FBA
  1. Interpret Information from Indirect & Direct Assessment and Formulate Hypotheses regarding the purpose (function) of problem behaviour and make decisions regarding interventions. (See Fig 16. O’Neill – Flow Chart)
  1. Test Hypotheses Using Functional Analysis – Conduct Manipulations (if required & under professional supervision)

N.B The correct data collection & recording/method system (used for step 2. above) is vital as it must allow clear and obvious summaries & graphical depictions of the information that can be easily shared with the team. It must be used to provide a source of on-going info as behaviours adapt and change over time and the results must allow for realistic implementation within the setting.

Summarizing Results of the FBA

  • Description of target behaviours
  • Method to conduct FBA described
  • Antecedents identified & recorded
  • Potential reinforcers identified
  • Replacement behaviours identified
  • Hypotheses of consequences that reinforce or maintain behaviour
See also  An Introductory Guide to Executive Function Skills


To find out more about Functional Behaviour Assessments and PBS, CLICK HERE



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