BEHAVIOR SUPPORT AND FUNCTIONAL ASSESSMENT
By Cynthia Warger
biting, hitting, scratching, kicking, screaming-as well as extreme
withdrawal-are behaviors that challenge even the best educators
and families. For years, researchers and practitioners alike have
asked the question: Why does a particular child act that way?
traditional behavioral management, which views the individual as
the problem and seeks to "fix" him or her by quickly eliminating
the challenging behavior, positive behavioral support (PBS) and
functional analysis (FA) view systems, settings, and lack of skill
as parts of the "problem" and work to change those. As such, these
approaches are characterized as long-term strategies to reduce inappropriate
behavior, teach more appropriate behavior, and provide contextual
supports necessary for successful outcomes.
and FA can help practitioners and parents understand why the challenging
behavior occurs-its function or purpose for the individual. In addition
to helping practitioners and families understand the individual
with the challenging behavior, PBS and FA also help them understand
the physical and social contexts of the behavior. Moreover, PBS
and FA provide a framework for helping the child to change challenging
1997 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA) requires the IEP team to consider using PBS to address
behavior that impedes the child's learning and/or the learning of
others [Section 614 (d)(3)(B)]. In addition, IDEA requires that
a functional behavioral assessment be conducted for a student either
before or not later than 10 days after a disciplinary action [Section
615 (k)(1)(B)(I)]. A functional behavioral assessment ensures that
the student's behavioral intervention plan is designed to meet that
child's unique needs.
of it supported by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs
(OSEP)-has demonstrated that PBS and FA are effective in assisting
students with challenging behaviors. The following sections describe
some of this research.
Do We Know About Positive Behavioral Support? A synthesis of more
than 100 research articles that involved individuals with various
cognitive disabilities found that:
is widely applicable to individuals with serious challenging
Research in PBS is rapidly contributing to our knowledge of
how to use the results of assessments and how to correct environmental
is effective in reducing problem behavior by 80 percent in two-thirds
of the cases.
rates are higher when intervention is based on prior functional
assessment (Carr, as reported by the Beach Center on Families
and Disability, 1998).
teachers already take the following actions, which have been identified
by research as supporting positive behaviors:
Respond to individual needs. PBS requires that services and
programs are responsive to the preferences, strengths, and needs
of individuals with challenging behavior. For example, some
school systems may need to add self-determination skills to
Alter environments. If something in the individual's environment
influences the challenging behavior, it is important to organize
the environment for success. For example, clearly defined work
paces and quiet work areas may assist a child who is noise-sensitive.
teach new skills to the individual with challenging behavior
and members of his or her social network. Individuals frequently
need to learn alternative, appropriate responses that serve
the same purpose as the challenging behavior.
appreciate positive behaviors. It is important to reinforce
and acknowledge all positive behaviors consistently.