What is Functional Behavior Analysis?


Functional behavior analysis can be used in special education or in applied behavior analysis, also known as ABA, to allow the observer to learn what triggers and leads to difficult behaviors. . This type of intervention helps us learn the function of challenging behaviors as well as environmental factors that may impact or interfere with Behavioral Intervention Plans (BIP), Individual Education Plans (IEP) or others. programs put in place to support positive behavior. Without an assessment of the direct and indirect factors that affect students, performing assessments or collecting data would not properly identify the functions of the behaviors that occur.

Understanding the functional analysis of behavior

Functional behavior analysis allows professionals to have direct observation of problematic behaviors so that a behavioral intervention plan can be planned to help target negative behaviors and introduce more functional and appropriate replacement behaviors.

Parents and teachers can perform informal assessments when a behavior occurs to help determine why a child is engaging in specific behaviors and develop supports and a plan to help cope with the situation that may arise at school. , in class or at home.

“In the cognitive-behavioral approach, functional behavioral assessment is one of the most effective methods to identify the variables that determine problematic behavior” (Merlo, et al., 2018).

This information could help parents target problematic behaviors and provide appropriate behavioral interventions in school and at home so that the student is able to be successful in school and other settings, as well as to have a strong support team with resources to help them through the process. behavior change.

Components of Functional Behavior Assessment

Functional Behavior Assessment, also known as BAF, helps parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals identify why the behaviors are occurring. People with disabilities may not always have the ability to express themselves and be a self-advocate when something in their environment is disturbing. Negative behaviors often act as a non-verbal way of communicating that something is wrong with a child’s environment. Sometimes observation can help us see a different perspective that we might not have noticed before.

For example, if a child constantly tries to leave the classroom or engage in inappropriate behaviors during math class, a teacher unfamiliar with the Functional Behavior Assessment might characterize the child as disobedient, defiant, or of disrespectful. Using assessments of functional behavior, we can take direct observation and a different perspective on behaviors to understand that the function of these negative behaviors is avoidance and evasion. The work may be too difficult for the student, causing anxiety and chronic stress levels. A teacher using FBA functional behavior assessment methods could monitor behavior and keep track of data to create interventions specific to the child’s needs in the classroom. Dividing the work into smaller steps, reducing the amount of work, or having a one-on-one classroom aide work with the student would help reduce avoidance and evasion behaviors and the student will have an educational experience more positive in their program or school.

Observation and data collection constitute the functional behavioral assessment. Observation involves observing any negative behavior and taking note of the situation, environmental factors and possible triggers that could impact or influence the behaviors. Data collection uses the ABA approach, known as ABC data, which stands for Antecedents, Behavior and Consequences. The antecedent is what happens before the behavior begins. Behavior is the negative action that occurs after the antecedent. Consequences are what happens as a result of the behaviors.

Special offer

Don’t miss our special offer.
Click here to find out more

An example of BAF with ABC data could be noted during a thunderstorm at home. If a child is afraid of thunderstorms, the antecedent would be thunder. Behaviors may be crying, repetitive rocking, or slowing down with trying to calm down due to the antecedent; Thunder. The consequence, or what happens after the behavior, could be additional hugs from the parents in an attempt to comfort the child. Understanding the function of behaviors could help parents plan appropriately for the next time they know a thunderstorm is about to strike.

By using Fulfillment by Amazon, you now know what to expect when a thunderstorm starts, you can predict how the child will react and suggest alternative behaviors. You can play music to muffle the sound of thunder or take out special toys that are only used during this special time to make thunderstorms fun instead of scare. The consequence will adapt and change from comforting the child, to having fun with your child, and he / she may even start to look forward to thunderstorms!

Does your child with autism need to be tested or evaluated?

If your child has problematic or difficult repetitive behaviors, a functional behavior assessment can help identify the triggers that are causing their distress. This knowledge and skills used in FBA can aid intervention and team efforts to change and shape target behaviors so that new behaviors are more appropriate and functional. The data used in behavioral analysis can help parents, teachers and therapists determine the best type of intervention or program that meets the individualized needs of the child or student.

There are six steps that make up functional behavior assessments. Each of these steps is important because they are part of the process used to change inappropriate or problematic behaviors.

The six steps that make up the Fulfillment by Amazon process are:

  • Choose and define the difficult behavior you want to modify or shape
  • Collect data on problematic behavior
  • Determine the “why” or function of the negative behavior
  • Perform a functional behavior assessment
  • Write a behavioral intervention plan
  • Teach the child or student alternative behavior that is more desirable or acceptable

When choosing a difficult behavior that you want to change, choose only one to start at a time. Trying to change too many behaviors at once could create unnecessary stress and anxiety for both the child and the parents. Trying to tackle too many problems at once could also lead to failure and unknowingly increase the frequency and duration of maladaptive behavior. You may even find that many difficult behaviors were related to the same root cause, so changing one behavior could improve multiple behaviors at once.

Collecting data on problematic behavior is also important so that you can scientifically define whether the intervention you are using is effective. You may also find that the problematic behavior you wanted to change may not have been as problematic or happened as often as you thought compared to other behaviors.

Finding out why a behavior is occurring, or the function of that behavior, is important because it helps you understand why a student is engaging or communicating in a specific way. If a student acts only during the test at school, you know that the student is trying to avoid having to take the test and that different interventions that help test for anxiety would be more appropriate and functional than disciplinary actions. , because the problem is not disciplinary.

Performing Functional Behavior Assessments allows you to observe and study the child’s or student’s environment and behaviors. This is where your ABC (Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence) data comes in handy. You will be able to notice the triggers that can trigger behaviors and see how your child or student reacts to different situations. This step is crucial for writing your intervention plan.

Creating a behavioral intervention plan and using it consistently will help you change behaviors over time. For example, if your child has a tantrum at the store because he wants candy, ignoring the behavior and not giving the child positive attention or reinforcement might be part of the behavioral intervention plan. The child will learn after so many times without drawing your attention, that having a collapse in the store on candy will not be rewarded, and the function of behavior, access to a desired item, becomes null and void. This is where the implementation of the last step, or the replacement behaviors, comes in.

Replacement behaviors are what you want to replace a behavior with. You teach a child to change an old habit or negative behavior into a positive or more appropriate behavior. In this example, a more appropriate behavior would be for the child to use words to communicate what he wants instead of collapsing would be more functional. You could ask the child to ask, “Can I choose a candy before I leave the store?” This more appropriate behavior can be understood by everyone and the child is able to communicate clearly.


Functional behavior analysis can help parents, teachers and caregivers understand the function of negative behaviors and create appropriate behavioral intervention programs that individually meet the needs of the child or student.

Observation and data collection are important parts of ABF so that triggers can be identified and negative behaviors can be avoided. Through the evaluation of programs within FBA, we are able to better understand how children are affected by their environment and provide better support and resources to help them be successful.

The references

Merlo, G., Chiazzese, G., Taibi, D., & Chifari, A. (2018). Development and validation of a functional behavioral assessment ontology to support behavioral health interventions. JMIR medical informatics, 6 (2), e37. https://doi.org/10.2196/medinform.7799.


Leave A Reply