What is a Functional Behavior Assessment?
A Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) is a process that identies specic target behavior, the purpose of the
behavior, and what factors maintain the behavior that is interfering with the student’s educational progress. A
target behavior may be “Johnny is off task 80% of the time during seat work.” This target behavior may include
several “off task” actions (e.g. Johnny talks to other students, leaves his desk, and drums his pencil on his desk
instead of following directions). This process leads to development of intervention plans to teach acceptable al-
ternative behavior. The resulting intervention plan focuses on teaching new behavior and social skills but usually
also requires modication of the school or classroom environment and activities, adaptation of curriculum and
instructional delivery, and changes in the teacher/student relationship that maintain the undesirable behavior.
When to do a Functional Behavior Assessment?
An FBA should be used for students with behavioral or emotional problems that are interfering with their educa-
tional progress or the progress of other students. The FBA can be a part of the SAT process, be used to develop
an Individual Education Plan, or provide information for verication of a disability. However, any student who is
exhibiting challenging behaviors that are not responding to typical school interventions may benet from a func-
tional assessment. Conducting a functional assessment before a behavior escalates into a disciplinary action allows
both the teachers and parents to focus on positive outcomes and can help build a positive relationship between the
teacher and the student and family.
What Happens During the FBA?
There are two distinct types of FBA processes, the Indirect and the Direct process. Both processes include 5 as-
sessment and intervention development steps. The key is that there is a direct and natural link between the target
behavior, the collection of unbiased and observable data about the behavior, and the intervention plan to change
the behavior.
The Indirect FBA Process
The Indirect FBA includes the 5 steps of the assessment process in a condensed format. The Indirect FBA is most
appropriate when the behavior incident requires immediate action, for behavior that is less serious and/or occurs
infrequently, or as part of early intervention using the SAT process. The Indirect FBA is helpful when only a
small group of individuals are involved ( i.e. teacher, student, administrator). The Indirect FBA focuses on using
simple verbal or written interviews with teachers, the student, and others involved in the target behavior. In the
interview process, the target behavior, the circumstances that support the behavior, and the function of the behavior
are identied. Based on this information, a hypothesis can be developed and a written plan can be formulated by
the team. Follow up interviews or other data (e.g. disciplinary referrals, attendance record etc.) can be used to
determine the success of the intervention or if the more comprehensive Direct FBA needs to occur.
Department of Special Education
Lincoln Public Schools
Lincoln, Nebraska
Rev. 7/06
SP0009, page 2 of 4
Rev. 7/06
The Direct FBA Process
The Direct FBA is a comprehensive assessment process that is appropriate when the target behavior is severe in duration, frequency,
and intensity and/or is complex and deeply ingrained in the student’s behavior patterns. The process is also appropriate when critical
decisions are being made in regard to verifying a disability, making placement decisions, or choosing intervention methods that are
intensive or intrusive.
Step 1 Dening the Target Behavior
The team (either SAT or IEP) will use interviews, school records, behavior observation documentation, incident reports, and
other appropriate methods to identify the most severe and difcult behavior as the target behavior.
Step 2 Collecting Data
The team will collect measurable and observable data by direct observation of the target behavior in the environment in which
it occurs. Documentation of possible functions of the behavior and environmental factors that support the behavior are part of
the observation process. Direct observation, using chartering and narrative data, provides a baseline to compare to data col-
lected after implementation of the intervention. In addition rating scales, school records, narrative documentation, academic
performance, and other related information are important. The data will include:
Charting the frequency and/or duration of the behavior. This is the primary method of data collection. This data can be
samples taken periodically through the day or continuous charting done through the day. This information may help pinpoint
critical times and situations at which the behavior occurs.
Where the behavior occurred
Who was involved (peers and adults)
What happened just before the behavior (predictors/antecedents)
What happened just after the behavior (consequences)
What was done to prevent or intervene in the behavior
How did the behavior resolve or end
Possible reasons for the behavior (attention, avoidance, opposition)
The classroom environment and structure at the time of the behavior
The instructional delivery used and level of adult attention given
Academic and behavioral expectations
Recent changes in student’s life in or out of school
Community, medical, or other related issues/other agencies involved when appropriate
Step 3 Developing an Hypothesis
The data collected about the target behavior is used to make a best guess (hypothesis) as to the function or purpose of the be-
havior. This step may be the most difcult because the team must make conclusions about behavior that is usually intertwined
with other behaviors and the motivation for the behavior may be unclear or complex. The best course of action is to focus on the
target behavior and the hypothesis of why you think the behavior occurred. The intervention steps of FBA test the hypothesis
and allow for renement of the intervention plan or to reject the hypothesis and return to the data to form a new hypothesis and
intervention strategy.
Step 4 Planning Interventions
A written Behavior Intervention Plan specically identifying the new skills to be taught, modications to be made in the envi-
ronment and instructional delivery, accommodations made to the curriculum, and changes in behavior management strategies
will be developed by the team. It is important to make clear who is responsible for implementing the plan and monitoring the
effects of the plan. Techniques such as reinforcement types and schedules, structure and instruction provided, the type of prog-
ress feedback to be given to the student, and data to be collected to monitor the plan are specied. Remember to consider the
student’s strengths and weaknesses and what strategies have been helpful or unhelpful in the past. If appropriate, the student
should be involved in developing the intervention. For complete details see the Behavior Intervention Plans handbook.
Step 5 Evaluating Effectiveness of the Plan
The team uses data that is relevant to the target behavior (i e. usually the same data collected in Step 2) to assess the effectiveness
of the intervention. Data that is measurable and observable is collected during the intervention process. Direct observation of
the student’s behavior should be compared to the baseline data collected in Step 2. In addition collecting data on the occurrence
of the new skill shows progress and provides positive feedback to the student. If the data is favorable the intervention continues.
If the data is not favorable the team returns to Step 1 and reevaluates the target behavior and data collected, reformulates the
hypothesis, makes appropriate modications to the intervention, implements the new plan, and collects data to reevaluate the
new plan.
SP0009, page 3 of 4
Rev. 7/06
Student: ID#: __________________
School: Grade: Gender: q M q F Birthdate: ___________
Student Legal Name: Social Security No.:
Living With Female: (402) (Work)
Living With Male: (402) (Work)
Family Address: (402) Unlisted? Y (Home)
Mailing Address: Home Zip Code:
Last School:
Permit: q Y q N Ward: q Y q N Counselor: _____________________________ 504: q Y q N
ELL: q Y q N Special Ed: q Y q N IEP Mgr.: _________________ Social Worker: _____________
Name: Phone: __________________
Probation Ofcer:
Name: Phone: __________________
Name: Phone: __________________
Name: Phone: __________________
Name: Phone: __________________
Name: Phone: __________________
Department of Special Education
SP0009, page 4 of 4
Rev. 7/06
Setting/Event Predictors Target Behavior Function
(what makes it worse?) (when, where, etc.) (what purpose is served?)
Department of Special Education
Student: Date:
ID#: Grade: School:
Persons Involved: ______________________________________ __________________________________________
_______________________________________ __________________________________________
_______________________________________ __________________________________________
1. Identify the target behavior. (Please state in observable and measurable terms.)
2. Under what circumstances is this behavior most likely and least likely to occur?
Predictors: Most LikeLy Least LikeLy
With whom:
3. What other factors in the student’s life may be affecting the occurrence of this behavior at school?
q Medical History q Attendance q Home Factors
q Medications q Sleep Factors q Substance Abuse
q Nutritional Factors q School Performance q Agency Involvement
q Other:
4. What are the student’s strengths?
5. What function or purpose does this behavior serve for the student?
q Power/Control q Escape/Avoidance q Other
q Justice/Revenge q Attention
6. Summary Hypothesis Statement: (Refer to Summary Statement Form)
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