Impact of Functional Behavioral Assessment on Services for Children and Youth with Emotional and Behavioral Difficulties

Authored by: Robert A. Gable , Lyndal M. Bullock , Mickie Wong-Lo

The Routledge International Companion to Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties

Print publication date:  August  2012
Online publication date:  October  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415584630
eBook ISBN: 9780203117378
Adobe ISBN: 9781136303111


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The use of functional behavioral assessment (FBA) to address the diverse needs of individuals with disabilities is a long-standing practice with strong empirical support. Rooted in the literature of applied behavior analysis, functional assessment is defined as ‘a process of identifying functional relationships between environmental events and the occurrence or non-occurrence of a target behavior’ (Dunlap et al. 1993: 275). The usefulness of FBA is predicated on three assumptions: (i) behavior is purposeful and serves a function for the student; (ii) behavior is linked to the context in which it occurs; and (iii) identification of the motivation behind the behavior facilitates the design of a function-based intervention (e.g. Reid and Nelson 2002). The goal of FBA is to collect data on those variables that account for the most variance in the behavior (its occurrence versus non-occurrence), variables that are controllable by persons in applied settings (schools), and variables that are unique to the individual (Gresham 1991; Reid and Nelson 2002). FBA is based on the notion of ‘conditional probability’. That is, knowledge of the conditions under which a behavior most often occurred in the past is useful for predicting when it will likely occur in the future (Gresham 1991). Across time, a substantial body of research founded primarily on persons with developmental disabilities has documented the efficacy of FBA in the clinical treatment of severe problem behavior including aggression, tantrums, self-injurious and stereotypic behavior (e.g. Goh and Bambara 2010).

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