Functional Behavior Assessments

Understanding the Purpose of Behavior

Research shows that both desirable and undesirable behaviors are maintained through interactions with the social and physical environment. A Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) is a systematic method for gathering information about the purposes (function) a problem behavior serves for an individual. The idea is that practically all behavior occurs within a particular context and serves a specific purpose. An FBA helps us develop a hypothesis about the relations with specific environmental events and behaviors. The results can then be used to design interventions for decreasing problem behavior and increasing appropriate behavior (Cooper et al., 2020).

A Functional Behavior Assessment effectively:

Functional behavior assessments can be viewed as a reinforcer assessment, identifying the reinforcers currently maintaining problem behavior. These reinforcers can be positive or negative and can be socially reinforced by others (e.g., giving a child attention when they tantrum) or automatic (e.g., scratching a rash).

A functional behavior assessment can be conducted directly through observations using the
A-B-C model or indirectly through structured interviews, checklists, rating scales or questionnaires.

The ABC Model
Antecedent: Any situation, action, or event that precedes a behavior
Behavior: An observable and measurable act BC
Consequence: Any response, action, or event that follows a behavior

S.E.A.T. Model
Insights to Behavior uses ABC data collection. as well as a questionnaire to identify the function of a student’s behavior.
There are four basic functions that serve human behavior. They are Sensory automatic, Escape, Attention and Tangible (S.E.A.T.).

As with students, we all engage in these four functions throughout our day and use behaviors to meet needs when they arise.

A Functional Behavior Assessment should also include a clearly defined operational definition of the problem behavior. The operational definition will need to be specific, observable, and measurable. An example would be, “With an open hand or closed fits, Dwyane, strikes others with enough force to leave bruises or cause pain.” This is the first step ni identifying appropriate strategies ot address the problem behavior. Without a clear operational definition, educators could be selecting strategies that are ineffective for the problem behavior. Insights’s platform guides educators through this process, even giving examples to make the process quick and easy.


Once the function is identified, Insights to Behavior’s proprietary system analyzes and prescribes specific strategies that are aligned with the function of the behavior, which are then used to develop a Behavior Intervention Plan. Aligning strategies with the function of a behavior is shown to significantly improve the chances of the student’s behavior improving.

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