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Strategies for Conducting a Functional Assessment

Introduction
Click here for a general description of the functional behavioral assessment process.
http://flpbs.fmhi.usf.edu/pdfs/pbs_FBA_Practice.pdf


Resources
Florida Facilitator's Notebook (in collaboration with the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Positive Behavior Support)
http://flpbs.fmhi.usf.edu/pdfs/pbs_Facilitators_Guide.pdf


This is a great site with information on tertiary kids and functional assessment information (See Appendix B and other forms).
http://cecp.air.org/fba/default.asp


Recent developments on functional behavior assessment and support (see slide show).
http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~ttobin/


Suggested References
Alberto, P. C., & Troutman, A. C. (1999). Applied behavior analysis for teachers (5th ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill.


Horner, R. H., Albin, R. W., Sprague, J. R., & Todd, A. (2000). Positive behavior support. In M. E. Snell & F. Brown (Eds.), Instruction of students with severe disabilities (pp. 207-243). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.


O'Neill, R. E., Horner, R. H., Albin, R. W., Sprague, J. R., Storey, K., & Newton, J. S. (1997). Functional assessment and program development for problem behavior: A practical handbook (2nd ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Direct Observations Tools in Functional Assessment

Observation Tools
Scatter Plot
  • Example - pdf
  • Blank copy - pdf

ABC Chart

Functional Assessment Observation Recording Form

Measurement Tools
Permanent Product
Example - pdf
Blank copy - pdf

Event Recording
Example - pdf
Blank copy - pdf

Momentary Time Sample
Example - pdf
Blank copy - pdf
 
 
Partial Interval Recording
Example - pdf
Blank copy - pdf

Behavior Duration
Example - pdf
Blank copy - pdf
 
 
Whole Interval Recording
Example - pdf
Blank copy - pdf

Latency Recording
Example - pdf
Blank copy - pdf

Visual Analysis

Graphing Instructions
  • Explanation - pdf
  • Blank copy - pdf

Suggested References
Carr, J. E. & Burkholder, E. O. (1998). Creating single-subject design graphs with Microsoft ExcelT. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 31, 245-251.


O'Neill, R. E., Horner, R. H., Albin, R. W., Sprague, J. R., Storey, K., & Newton, J. S. (1997). Functional assessment and program development for problem behavior: A practical handbook (2nd ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.


Alberto, P. C., & Troutman, A. C. (1999). Applied behavior analysis for teachers (5th ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill.

Indirect Interviews

Indirect Functional Assessment Tools
  • Functional Assessment Checklist for Teachers and Staff FACTS) - pdf
  • Functional Assessment Interview Tool - pdf

Indirect Assessment Tools
  • Record Review - pdf
  • Positive Environment Checklist - pdf

Resources
Florida Facilitator's Notebook (in collaboration with the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Positive Behavior Support)
http://flpbs.fmhi.usf.edu/pdfs/pbs_Facilitators_Guide.pdf

Suggested References
Durand, V. M. (1990). Severe behavior problems: A functional communication training approach. New York: Guilford Press.


Horner, R. H. & Sugai, G. (Eds.). (1999-2000). Special issue: Functional behavioral assessment. Exceptionality, 8(3), 145-230.


Kern, L., Dunlap, G., Clarke, S., & Childs, K.E. (1994). Student-assisted functional assessment interview. Diagnostique, 19(2-3), 29-39.


O'Neill, R. E., Horner, R. H., Albin, R. W., Sprague, J. R., Storey, K., & Newton, J. S. (1997). Functional assessment and program development for problem behavior: A practical handbook (2nd ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Issues Related to Physiological Factors & Functional Assessment

Online Medical Resources
Health Central (http://www.healthcentral.com/)


FDA Consumer (http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/default.htm)


MEDLINE Plus (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/)


MEDSCAPE (http://www.medscape.com/)


National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NIH)
(http://nccam.nih.gov/)


Pub Med (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez/)

Suggested References
Carr, E. G., & Smith, C. E. (1995). Biological setting events for self-injury. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, 1, 94-98.


Durand, V. M. (1998). Sleep better! Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.


Durand, V. M., Gernert-Dott, P., & Mapstone, E. (1996). Treatment of sleep in children with developmental disabilities. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 21(3), 114-122.


Guess, D., Roberts, S., & Guy, B. (1999). Implications of behavior state for the assessment and education of students with profound disabilities. In A. C. Repp & R. H. Horner (Eds.), Functional analysis of problem behavior: From effective assessment to effective support (pp.338-394). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.


Huntly, R. (1991). The sleep book for tired parents: Help for solving children's sleep poblems. Seattle, WA: Parenting Press, Inc.


Kennedy, C. H., & Meyer, K. A. (1998). Sleep deprivation, allergy symptoms, and negatively reinforced problem behavior. Journal of Applied behavior Analysis, 26, 321-327.


Kennedy, C. H., & Itonken, T. (1993). Effects of setting events on the problem behavior of students with severe disabilities. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 26, 321-327.


Kennedy, C. H., & Thompson, T. (2000). Health conditions contributing to problem behavior among people with mental retardation and developmental disabilities. In M. L. Wehmeyer, & J. R. Patton, (Eds.), Mental retardation in the 21st century (pp. 211-231). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.


Mace, F. C., & Mauk, J. E. (1999). Biobehavioral diagnosis and treatment of self-injury. In A. C. Repp & R. H. Horner (Eds.), Functional analysis of problem behavior: From effective assessment to effective support (pp. 78-97). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.


Reiss, S. (2000). Psychopharmacology and mental retardation. In M. L. Wehmeyer, & J. R. Patton, (Eds.), Mental retardation in the 21st century (pp. 197-209). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.


Thompson, T., & Symons, F. J. (1999). Neurobehavioral mechanisms of drug action. In N. A. Wieseler, R. H. Hanson, & G. Siperstein (Eds.), Challenging behavior of persons with mental health disorders and severe developmental disabilities (pp.125-145). Washington, DC: American Association on Mental Retardation.

When a Functional Analysis is Needed

Introduction
Functional analysis can be differentiated from a functional assessment in that the antecedents and consequences are specifically manipulated, often in a clinical or analog setting. Much research has been conducted in evaluating methods for conducting functional analysis, yet it is often not used in everyday settings. If you are working with a team and it becomes clear that a functional analysis is necessary to confirm a hypothesis, look for an expert consultant in your region to help you conduct the analysis. The expert can help you design and implement the functional analysis in the person's environment to obtain the greatest degree of control without sacrificing all the natural elements. It is important for you and your team to be well informed about functional analysis procedures before hiring a specialist.


Issues to discuss with the specialist:

Identify the specific variables to be assessed during the functional analysis
  • Identify what antecedents, consequences, and behaviors of interest.
  • Share initial hypotheses that have been developed.
  • Decide where the functional analysis should be conducted (setting with highest incidence of problem behavior is best).

Have a clear plan for keeping the person's health and safety ensured and determine the level of risk
  • Have enough people available to ensure everyone's safety.
  • Make sure someone is familiar with proper restraint procedures if appropriate for given behavior problems.
  • Use protective equipment if appropriate.
  • Set criteria for terminating a session.

Length of the functional analysis
  • Conduct as brief an assessment as possible (one or two series of the conditions).
  • It may be necessary to conduct a longer assessment if data are variable.
  • Individuals with greater communication and cognitive deficits may need longer sessions, sessions presented in a block, and as many cues as possible to make each condition distinguishable.

Consider conducting with milder behavior problems only.
  • Precursor or milder forms of problem behavior that occur before more serious problem behaviors, can be used as target behaviors instead of directly reinforcing severe problem behavior.
  • Ignore more severe behavior problems that you are concerned will escalate if reinforced.

Test only those conditions hypothesized to be affecting behavior
  • It may not be necessary to test all the conditions if there is adequate preliminary information that a certain reinforcer is not available or likely to be maintaining problem behavior.
  • If you feel that the preliminary information is complete or inaccurate, it may be best to test all possible conditions.

Advantages to Conducting a Functional Analysis
  • Clear data are collected under controlled circumstances that allow you to best understand the function of the behavior.
  • You can use this information to design a more effective intervention.
  • A functional analysis is recommended when functional assessment strategies fail to provide enough information.

Disadvantages to Conducting a Functional Analysis
  • Concerns about triggering problem behavior on purpose.
  • Difficult to do well unless controlled conditions available.
  • Intentionally reinforcing problem behavior can be dangerous to the individual and to those in the environment.
  • Requires extensive training.
  • Takes a significant amount of manpower, which is difficult in many settings.
  • Exposing the individual to reinforcement for problem behavior may shape new functions or new forms of problem behavior.

Suggested References
Freeman, K. A., Anderson, C. M., & Scotti, J. R. (2000). A structured descriptive methodology: Increasing agreement between descriptive and experimental analyses. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 35, 55-66.


Iwata, B. A., Dorsey, M., Slifer, K., Bauman, K., & Richman, G. (1994). Toward a functional analysis of self-injury. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27, 197-209. (Reprinted from Analysis and Intervention in Developmental Disabilities, 2, 3-20, 1982).


Iwata, B. A., Pace, G. M., Dorsey, M. F., Zarcone, J. R., Vollmer, T. R., Smith, R. G., et al. (1994). The functions of self-injurious behavior: An experimental-epidemiological analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27, 215-240.


Iwata, B. A., Vollmer, T. R., & Zarcone, J. R. (1990). The experimental (functional) analysis of behavior disorders: Methodology, application, and limitations. In A. C. Repp & N. N. Singh (Eds.), Perspectives on the use of nonaversive and aversive interventions for person with developmental disabilities (pp. 301-330). Sycamore, IL: Sycamore.


Paclawskyj, T. R., Matson, J. L., Rush, K. S., Smalls, Y., & Vollmer, T. R. (2001). Assessment of the convergent validity of the Questions About Behavioral Function scale with analogue functional analysis and the Motivation Assessment Scale. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities Research, 45, 484-494.


Tincani, M. J., Castrogiavanni, & A., Axelrod, S. (1999). A comparison of the effectiveness of brief versus traditional functional analyses. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 20, 327-338.


Toogood, S. & Timlin, K. (1996). The functional assessment of challenging behaviour: A comparison of informant-based, experimental and descriptive methods. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 9, 206-222.

How to Improve Team Relationships While Conducting Functional Assessments

Critical Features of Effective Teams
Does your team have good team meeting behaviors? Assess whether you would agree to the following:

Effective Team Checklist

  • The team I participate in has a vision statement
  • The team I participate in sets ground rules for team meetings
  • The team I participate in designates team roles
  • The team I participate in creates agendas and uses meeting minutes
  • The team I participate in uses data based decision making on a regular basis
  • The team I participate in are able to engage in dialogue and problem solving without arguing or becoming upset

Vision Statement
A vision statement is used to create an agreed upon goal held by all team members that describes an deal outcome for an individual. Creating a vision statement together can encourage a collaborative atmosphere. A vision statement may be that a person will have the opportunity to contribute to his community and earn the love and respect of his family, friends, and neighbors.


Ground Rules For Team Meetings
Group expectations that are identified before a meeting starts that is intended to create a positive atmosphere. Examples include:
  • Prompt and reliable attendance by all team members
  • Staying throughout the entire team meeting
  • Allowing everyone the chance to speak
  • Team members should be allowed to finish their train of thought before someone else speaks
  • An agreed upon signal to be used to focus the group's attention by the facilitator when the group digresses

The Responsibility for Running a Meeting Should be a Group Responsibility:
  • Facilitator: guides the team by following a meeting agenda, encourages everyone on the team to speak, and clarifies what is said by paraphrasing and summarizing what has been said. The facilitator redirects the team when off task behaviors occur.
  • Time Keeper: assists in establishing the length of time for each topic and alerts the facilitator when it is time to address the next agenda item.
  • Record Keeper: reviews the actions that are identified to make sure everyone understands what they are responsible for completing and sends meeting minutes to team members promptly at the end of the meeting.

Agendas and Meeting Minutes
Agendas outline the topic areas to be discussed at the upcoming meeting. Agendas can include information about the amount of time that will be spent discussing each issue that the team must address. Meeting minutes should include a statement of the action to be taken, the person responsible for completing the action, and a date for its expected completion. It is important to distribute the meeting minutes as quickly as possible after the meeting has been completed. This confirms that each person understands what they are expected to do before the next meeting. Click here for an example of meeting minutes that might be used during the functional assessment process - pdf.

Data-based Decision Making. Direct observation data are an important part of the functional assessment process because they will be used to support the team's hypothesis statement about the function maintaining the student's problem behavior. The data that are collected during the functional assessment should be reviewed at each meeting to develop and confirm the hypothesis statement(s). The meeting minutes should document which team member will be bringing data to the next meeting and include meeting days when data will be reviewed.


Meeting Minutes
Meeting minutes are an important tool for making sure everyone knows what they are responsible for during the functional assessment process and when they need to complete each activity. Without meeting minutes, it is common for tasks to be forgotten, team members to forget what they were responsible for completing, and the length of the time needed to complete a functional assessment increased.
Example of meeting minutes format - pdf

References
Cathcart, R. S., Samovar, L. A., & Henman, L. D. (1996). `Small group communication: Theory and practice (7th ed.). Madison, WI: Brown & Benchmark publishers.


Fisher, R., & Ury, W. (1981). Getting to yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in (2nd ed.). NY: Penguin Books.


Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, F. P. (1991). Joining together: Group theory and group skills (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn Bacon.


Rindone, N. K. (1996, May). Effective Teaming for Success. Presented at the workshop for Kansas State Department of Education, Division of Student Support Services, Boots Adams Alumni Center, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.


Snell, M. E., & Janey, R. (2000). Teachers' guides to inclusive practices: Collaborative teaming (pp.62-73). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

When a Functional Assessment is Inconclusive

Sometimes indirect assessments are completed, data are collected, reports are reviewed, and still it is not clear what is maintaining the problem behavior. There are several reasons for why this might occur. The following troubleshooting tool can be used with your team to discuss what problems are occurring.

The problem behavior doesn't occur often enough to observe

  • Are there other time periods when problem behaviors are more likely?
  • Are the time periods being observed too short?
  • Can you vary the times in which observations are being made?
  • Can other types of indirect assessments be used to gather information?
  • Is it possible to ask someone who is more likely to observe problems to collect data?
  • Is the person acting differently because of the observation process? If so, the observer may need to be around more often so that the person gets used to the data being collected
  • Problem Solving Actions
    Write down what new strategies will be used to observe problem behaviors, who will be responsible and when the task will be completed

    New Strategy Person Responsible Date






The problem behavior occurs on a regular basis, but only happens once or twice a month

  • Make a list of all the behaviors that are part of the same response class and choose which behaviors will be observed








  • Are the antecedents that are expected to trigger problem behavior present? If not, consider whether the team should seek out assistance in conducting a functional analysis
  • Is it possible to ask someone who is more likely to observe problems to collect data?

    Problem Solving Actions
    Write down what new strategies will be used to observe problem behaviors, who will be responsible and when the task will be completed

    New Strategy Person Responsible Date






The behavior occurs, but there is no clear pattern

  • Does the team suspect that the problem behavior is maintained by a number of different functions?
  • Has the team identified specific routines during the functional assessment?
  • Does the team suspect that there are physiological variables maintaining problem behavior
  • Has the team identified all possible setting events that may be maintaining problem behavior?

    Problem Solving Actions
    Write down what new strategies will be used to observe problem behaviors, who will be responsible and when the task will be completed

    New Strategy
    Person Responsible
    Date






Conflicting findings between indirect and direct observation data

  • Does the team suspect that the problem behavior is maintained by a number of different functions?
  • Has the team identified specific routines that address different functions and conducted the functional assessment to confirm more than one hypothesis?
  • Are the functions maintaining problem behavior different in various environmental settings? If so, has the team confirmed each hypothesis using direct observation strategies?
  • Has the team collected enough direct observation data to be confident in the hypothesis statements?
  • Has the team paid close attention to contextual fit issues as they relate to the diverse perceptions gathered during the functional assessment? If so, does the information suggest what problem behaviors are considered the most problematic?

    Problem Solving Actions
    Write down what new strategies will be used to observe problem behaviors, who will be responsible and when the task will be completed

    New Strategy Person Responsible Date






The behavior does not appear to be maintained by social consequences

  • Are there situations when problem behavior maintained by physiological factors increases or decreases due to environmental settings?
  • Is there any evidence that the person may be learning that engaging in problem behavior results in valuable social outcomes?
  • Has the team collected data that provides evidence that certain environmental events, situations, or settings are associated with an escalation or increase in the intensity of a problem behavior?
  • Has the individual received psychiatric assessment or interventions recently?

    Problem Solving Actions

    New Strategy Person Responsible Date







Suggested References
Cataldo, M. F. & Harris, J. (1982). The biological basis for self-injury in the mentally retarded. Analysis and Intervention in Developmental Disabilities, 2, 21-39.


Hagopian, L. P., Fisher, W. W., Thompson, R. H., Owen-Deschryver, J., Iwata, B. A., & Wacker, D. P. (1997). Toward the development of structural criteria for interpretation of functional analysis data. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 30, 313-326.


Iwata, B. A., Pace, G. M. Kissell, R. C, Nau, P. A., & Farber, J. M. (1990). The self-injury trauma (SIT) scale: A method for quantifying surface tissue damage caused by self-injurious behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 23, 99-110.


Mace, F. C. & Mauk, J. E. (1995). Bio-behavioral diagnosis and treatment of self-injury. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, 1, 104-110.


Richman, D., & Hagopian, L. (1999). On the effects of the "quality" of attention in the functional analysis of destructive behavior. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 20, 51-62.


Shore, B. A. & Iwata, B. A. (1999). Assessment and treatment of behavior disorders maintained by nonsocial (automatic) reinforcement. In A. C. Repp and R. H. Horner (Eds.), Functional analysis of problem behavior: From effective assessment to effective support. (pp. 117-146). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.


Sprague, J. R. & Horner, R. H. (1999). Low-frequency high-intensity problem behavior: Toward an applied technology of functional assessment and intervention. In A. C. Repp and R. H. Horner (Eds.), Functional analysis of problem behavior: From effective assessment to effective support. (pp. 98-116). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
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