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Lets talk Behavior and FBAs b/c Behavior Serves a Purpose

Behavior serves a purpose. So, I have done three videos on this now because that’s how passionate I am about this topic, check out my Instagram, Facebook, or Linked in, and thought I would combine videos in to words, enter the blog post. Behavior serves a purpose, and while that behavior may NOT be safe it does serve a purpose.


As a mental health professional, a parent, and parent advocate, one of my biggest pet peeves is, “there was no trigger”. Those four words immediately cause me to take pause, take a deep breath, and reset so that I don’t block out what is being said because when I hear those words that’s when I know that the child is going to be held accountable for their behavior without determining why the behavior occurred. This means not only will the behavior occur again it will most likely keep resulting in punitive punishment without a solution.


So lets talk FBA : An FBA is a functional behavior assessment that is required by federal law whenever a child with a disability has an change in placement for disciplinary reasons:

  1. When a child is removed from school for more than 10 consecutive days

  2. When a child is removed from school for more than 10 school days for conduct

  3. When a child is placed in an alternative educational setting for more than 45 school days of behavior that involves a dangerous weapon, illegal drugs or infliction of serious bodily injury

However an FBA can be requested by a parent if you feel:

  • Your child is not making progress

  • If there are new behavioral challenges that are keeping your child from making progress

  • Challenging behaviors interfere with other children and their ability to learn

So an IEP team conducts an FBA after the team is in agreement that an FBA would be beneficial. The steps in conducting an FBA include:

  1. Identify and agree on the behavior(s) that need to change - describe the concerning behaviors

  2. Determine where the behaviors do and do not occur - this can occur through interviews and observations

  3. Collect information on the child's performance from as many sources as possible - Gen ed teacher, special education teacher, paraprofessional, parents

  4. Develop an informed guess - use all of the information gathered, review the data, and predict where and why the behaviors most likely occur

  5. Identify replacement behaviors for the unsafe behaviors or the behaviors that are negatively impacting the child's educational environment

Now, lets talk behavior. BEHAVIOR SERVES A PURPOSE and because it serves a purpose we need to know the purpose before we determine if the behavior needs to be replaced. Here are a few questions that both parents and educators need to ask:

  1. Does the behavior need to be changed? Is the behavior hindering them academically, can the behavior be accommodated, can the behavior be expressed in a safer setting? I.e. a child that needs to release energy jumping on a trampoline or a child that needs to do something with their hands using a fidget

  2. Is the behavior unsafe because it is unsafe or is the behavior unsafe due to the setting? For example a child can not throw things in a classroom but can the child throw a ball outside or in a gym because they have a need to throw. Thinking outside of the box is necessary when addressing behavior!

  3. What behaviors need to be addressed? What happens before, during, and after the behavior? How long does the behavior last? Who is around when the behavior occurs?

  4. How do YOU react during the behavior and after the behavior? You're reaction can sometimes shape the behavior, so it's important to look at not only how we respond but why we respond the way we respond.

  5. What trends do you notice? Is it happening at night time, only during transition, only during math centers?

Lastly, always look at the potential causes for the behavior:

  1. Perfectionism - wanting to complete an assignment exactly the way "you think" that it should be completed. - Notice what I said there, the way "you think". Remember that its not about how you view it, its about they view it. Its about their view of "doing it right" or "doing it wrong". So help them understand that it doesn't have to be done perfectly, show them that you make mistakes and by you I mean parents and educators! Practice making mistakes and practice getting the work done even if its not exactly the right way, then work on getting it done the "right" way.

  2. Lack of Understanding - this could be not understanding the directions given, not understanding the assignment as a whole, not understanding a portion of the directions. -Its important to determine if the child understands what they are being asked to do because if not then then this can lead to avoidance, refusal to complete tasks and can mask itself as the old go to defiance.

  3. Inability to advocate for oneself - does the child have the language, words, ability to say that they need help, to ask for help, to ask for what they need without directly being asked and if asked are they comfortable enough and has the relationship been built enough for them to say it? - Advocating for oneself can be hard, adults struggle to say what they need everyday so why do we expect a child to be able to do it with an adult. They may just struggle with what to say or how to say what they need to say. Do they have the language or the tools (aka pictures) to even show what they need or what they are struggling with?

Remember every child is UNIQUE! No child is the same and so no behavior will always have the same function, the same behavior may not even have the same function in different settings, so it is important to get to know the child and to get to know the why! And that may mean conducting an FBA!





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