A Guide to Functional Behavioral Assessment

Functional behavioral assessments and predictive index survey are methods that researchers and other practitioners use to identify and determine the reasons why specific behaviors occur and why they do. In most cases, you will find that they are used to identify and determine challenging behaviors like aggression towards others, destructive behaviors, or even self-injury behaviors.

There are different methods you can apply to successfully carry out a functional behavioral assessment and all of them ultimately always leads to the same agenda; identifying the function of any challenging behavior in an individual so that interventions can be put in place to try and reduce these behaviors and improve more of the adaptive behaviors.

Some of the functional assessment methods.

There are three different types of functional assessment methods; the direct observation method, the functional analysis method, and the informant method.

The names of these three methods can, however, differ, slightly depending on which type of book you are reading or where you are getting your content from and can end up causing a lot of confusion especially to the first-time readers. This article has attempted to discuss each of these methods and act as a guide through your whole process on the topic.

  1. Direct observation

Here, the observer or researcher will only watch their subjects and how they engage with different activities within their natural environments and when the challenging behavior occurs, the researchers will record all the things that transpired before and after it. They do this in an attempt to try and discover the potential cause of the behavior occurring. It is a pretty simple method only that you always have to keep constant watch of your subjects’ every move failure of which you can miss out on some vital findings.

  1. Informant methods

These methods involve the use of interviews and even questionnaires that the subjects complete, including their parents, teachers, and even staff members. This method is mainly used to determine what happens immediately before and after a behavior occurs just like in the direct observation method. It is also used to develop a hypothesis of what sparks the behavior. The only difference between the two is that the direct observation method requires that the researcher only studies the subjects without interacting with them while the informant methods require that you offer the subjects questionnaires and interviews to reach the same conclusion.

  1. Functional analysis

This is the only method of the three where the researchers are directly involved in the research. They attempt to change the environments of their subjects immediately before and after the behavior occurs to test what may be causing the behavior to manifest itself.

This method is more hands-on and is actually used to test the hypothesis, unlike the first two methods which only create a hypothesis based on their findings. This makes it the most accurate method of the three that produce actual results that can predict when a behavior occurs and why it occurs in their subjects.

Both the directive and the informant assessment methods are deceptive functional assessments as they only describe what is happening before and after a behavior occurs while the functional analysis method is classified as an experimental functional assessment method as it is more hands-on and attempts to manipulate what happens that trigger the challenging behavior.