Introduction to functional assessment
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Introduction to Functional Assessment. Review the goals of PBS Discuss the role of functional assessment State why an intervention based upon what a behavior looks like is most likely to be ineffective Define indirect assessment State the advantages and disadvantages of indirect assessment

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Introduction to Functional Assessment

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Introduction to functional assessment

Introduction to Functional Assessment

Goals for today

Review the goals of PBS

Discuss the role of functional assessment

State why an intervention based upon what a behavior looks like is most likely to be ineffective

Define indirect assessment

State the advantages and disadvantages of indirect assessment

Conduct an indirect assessment and summarize the results using observable terms


FBA Project


In schools!

Goals for Today

Goals of pbs

Goals of PBS

  • Make problem behavior inefficient and ineffective

  • Provide support across all aspects of a person’s life

  • Allow the person to be able to function within the environment s/he chooses to live

Behavior does not happen in a vacuum

Behavior Does Not Happen in a Vacuum

  • Antecedents – events that set the occasion for a behavior to occur

    • Instructions

    • Introduction or removal of items

    • Teacher/peer attention (or lack thereof)

  • Behavior– response that occurs

    • Does not have to be a bad behavior!

  • Consequence– events that occur after a behavior

    • May make the behavior more/less likely to occur again

      Functions– contingencies maintaining a response

Theories of how functions work

Theories of How Functions Work

  • Common Functions of Behavior

    • Peer/Teacher Attention

    • Escape or Avoidance of Unpleasant Events

    • Sensory Consequences

    • Access to Items (Tangibles)

Other factors to consider in assessing causes of problem behavior

Other factors to consider in assessing causes of problem behavior


    • Low level of reinforcement

    • hot, noisy, crowded


    • too difficult

    • pacing is too fast/slow

    • lack of variety

    • lack of choice

Setting Events/Motivating Operations– things and events that make reinforcers more potent

Theories of how functions work1

Theories of How Functions Work

  • Communication Hypothesis – all behavior serves a communicative function

  • Behavior, even behavior that looks very similar, can serve very different functions

Functional behavioral assessment

Functional Behavioral Assessment


Goals of functional assessment

Goals of Functional Assessment

  • Find out what’s maintaining the behavior now

  • What strategies would be the most effective for behavior to change

Components of a good functional assessment

Informal Observation/Record Review

Definition of Behavior Problem

Use observable terms

Selection of Tools to be used

Use a variety of tools to assess:

Problem behavior

Skill v Performance Deficits

Possible replacement behaviors

Possible reinforcers

Utilize a team approach

Components of a Good Functional Assessment

  • Careful analysis of data

  • Preparing an appropriate support plan

Indirect assessment checklists interviews and rating scales

Indirect AssessmentChecklists, Interviews, and Rating Scales

  • Forms that ask questions that point to the functions of behavior

  • Advantages:

    • Easy to administer

    • Requires very few resources

Disadvantages to indirect assessment

Disadvantages to Indirect Assessment

  • May not identify the correct function

  • Tests of reliability and validity are inconclusive

  • Teacher and Staff biases may affect conclusions drawn

Summarizing the results

Summarizing the Results

  • Use observable terms and avoid explanatory fictions

  • Summarize only what you see

  • You still need more information!


I calculated the MAS and the highest score was attention, followed by materials. Mrs. Jones stated that she thought Jimmy was often looking for attention. It seems like attention might be a possible function.

The MAS clearly shows that Jimmy is seeking attention. We saw that when Jimmy wants attention, he tends to throw his books. Mrs. Jones agrees with me that this is probably the function. I will definitely take this into consideration when I write my behavior support plan


For more information

For More Information

Alberto, P. A., & Troutman, A. C. (2009). Applied behavior analysis for teachers (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill-Prentice-Hall.

Asmus, J. M., Vollmer, T. R., & Borrero, J. C. (2002). Functional behavioral assessment: A school based model. Education and Treatment of Children, 25(1), 67-90.

Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2007). Applied behavior analysis (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.

Dunlap, G., & Fox, L. (1996). Early intervention and serious problem behaviors: A comprehensive approach. In L. K. Koegel, & Koegel, R.L., Dunlap,G. (Eds.), Positive behavior support: Including individuals with difficult behaviors in the community (pp. 31-50). Baltimore: Brookes.

Durand, V. M., & Crimmins, D. B. (1988). Identifying the variables maintaining self-injurious behavior. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 18(1), 99-117.

Floyd, R. G., Phaneuf, R. L., & Wilczynski, S. M. (2005). Measurement properties of indirect assessment methods for functional behavioral assessment: A review of research. School Psychology Review, 34(1), 58-73.

Hall, S. S. (2005). Comparing descriptive, experimental and informant-based assessments of problem behaviors. Research in Developmental Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 26, 514-526

Joosten, A. V., & Bundy, A. C. (2008). The motivation of stereotypic and repetitive behavior: Examination of construct validity of the motivation assessment scale. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(7), 1341-1348.

Kearney, C. A. (1994). Interrater reliability of the motivation assessment scale: Another, closer look. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps (JASH), 19(2), 139-42.

Sigafoos, J., & Others, A. (1994). Interrater reliability of the motivation assessment scale: Failure to replicate with aggressive behavior. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 15(5), 333-42.

Zarcone, J. R., & Others, A. (1991). Reliability analysis of the motivation assessment scale: A failure to replicate. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 12(4), 349-60.

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