Conducting Effective and Efficient Functional Behavioral Assessments
Now that your behavior intervention toolbox is well stocked, how do you determine which behavior interventions to use when? This is the primary purpose of functional behavioral assessment: to help in the design of behavior intervention plans that match the function of the behavior and are efficient and effective. We have discussed multiple examples of brief and informal functional behavioral assessment in this book that lead to effective responses from educators and result in the successful modification of behavior without any paperwork. Table 14.1 gives some examples of interventions previously discussed in this book that may "match" common functions of the behavior.
There are times when using a more formalized process and written format is helpful and sometimes this is required by law. Remember that the goal is to work smarter, not harder. Do not let yourself become intimidated by this process or make it overly complicated. Most of the time, functional behavioral assessments in the educational environment can be fairly simple and straightforward. Functional behavior assessments are conducted before designing a behavior intervention plan, so that the information collected during this process can be used to make the plan more effective. For this reason, we are covering the two processes in two separate chapters. In this chapter, we will discuss the first three steps of the functional behavioral assessment process, which ends in the development of a hypothesis about why the problem behavior is occurring. Chapter Fifteen will then focus on using this information to design the behavior intervention plan. The final steps are determining whether the hypothesis was correct and the behavior plan resulted in improved behavior, then monitoring the behavior plan over time to ensure this improvement is maintained.
Step One: Operationally Define the Problem and Replacement Behaviors
To start the functional behavioral assessment process, all team members must know exactly what the problem behavior being targeted is. The definition of the problem behavior must pass the stranger test, meaning that if a stranger who has never met the student walked into the classroom, he or she would be able to accurately identify if the problem behavior was occurring. For example, the definition, "Johnny does not allow adults to be in charge," does not pass the stranger test because it is not clear exactly what behavior determines this. Is Johnny saying no when asked to do something? Is he arguing when the teacher gives him a direction? "Johnny speaks out without permission" is a better example of a behavior that is defined following the stranger test.
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