A Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) is an assessment completed in order to determine why a problem behavior might be occurring. An FBA involves collecting information on the behavior from various sources (interviews, questionnaires, direct observation of environmental events surrounding occurrences of the behavior). Typically, the evaluator takes what is called ABC data (antecedent-behavior-consequence). By examining the data and looking for patterns, the examiner is better able to hypothesize the function or cause of a problematic behavior. Functions of behaviors include positive reinforcement of attention, positive reinforcement of access to desired items, negative reinforcement of escaping demands and automatic reinforcement.
The FBA seeks to uncover which of these functions might be maintaining the behavior in question. Correctly identifying why challenging behaviors occur leads to choosing effective intervention strategies. If we are wrong about why a challenging behavior occurs, then it is likely that our intervention strategies will be ineffective and they may inadvertently increase the problematic behavior.
A Functional Assessment approach assumes that the most challenging behavior is LEARNED, and the challenging behavior occurs because it produces a desirable outcome for the student. It is important to be aware of why the behavior may occur, but the primary focus should be on identifying the current variables that support the behavior.
After a FBA is conducted, and the function is hypothesized, a behavioral intervention plan is created to reduce or eliminate the problematic behavior.
Similar to a FBA is a Functional Analysis (FA). Both assessments have the same purpose of identifying the function and supporting variables of a problematic behavior. The difference is that FAs set up conditions or experiments to better understand when and in what conditions problematic behaviors occur.