Students can have trouble in school for many reasons. It’s not always due to academics. Some students have problems due to behavior. When they have difficulty due to their behavior, the schools have a unique process to understand the student’s behavior and decide what to do.
During this process, the schools look beyond the “bad” behavior to interpret what function it’s playing for your child. There is typically a reason that a child acts the way that they do. If they can get to the root of the behavior, strategies can be put into place to prevent that behavior. This process is called a functional behavior assessment, or FBA.
How Is This Done?
Finding that reason the student acts the way that he does is the first step to developing strategies to prevent the behavior. This is done with the FBA.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), FBAs are required by law when dealing with a challenging student with special needs. If your child is not getting a functional behavior assessment in the classroom, you may need to push for one if you believe one is necessary.
To conduct an FBA, a behavioral specialist will interview the parents, teachers, and others who work with the student. During this process, he or she will document what precedes the behavior (the antecedent), the behavior, and what follows the behavior (the consequence) over a few weeks.
During the FBA, whether the child’s disability affects their behavior and how is also evaluated. The behavioral specialist may also make changes in their environment to see if they can avoid the behavior with any of these changes.
Example of an FBA in Use
There are multiple times an FBA may be used. Let’s consider one example.
A student gets very worked up any time he’s in music class. No matter what the teacher does, the student tends to always respond the same way. An FBA finds that the student has autism and that the noise is overstimulating for him because he is sensitive to noise. The FBA may recommend that he have an alternative elective rather than a music class.
When Should It Be Performed?
Ideally, a school should employ an FBA shortly after the behavior starts. This allows the behavioral specialist to observe the student and implement a timely change.
However, this doesn’t always happen for several reasons. The main one is the understaffing of schools today. This can sometimes cause a gap of weeks or months between acknowledging that an assessment needs to take place and the time that it’s actually performed.
Meanwhile, the behavior continues to be disruptive to the class and the student’s ability to learn. The wait between acknowledgment and assessment can be challenging for both parents and teachers.
During the wait, consider sitting down with your child’s teacher and study team. Together, you may be able to develop a behavior plan that will work until the formal functional behavior assessment can be administered and implemented.