Functional behavior assessment

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Functional behavior assessment is a tool that educators and behavior experts routinely use to identify and correct problematic behaviors in pupils. Problematic conduct in pupils can emerge for a variety of causes, one of which being the child's living environment. Because both the home and school environments influence children's behavior, it is critical for educators to identify the fundamental cause of the problem and devise the most effective method for resolving it. FBA has had effectiveness in dealing with troublesome behaviors that are mild to moderate on school grounds.  In an escalated case where the student is a danger to himself and others, an external consultation with a professional might be required. FBA takes four main steps, including assessing, asking, seeing, and hypothesizing (Neill & Stephenson, 2010). Each of these stages ensures that the misbehavior triggers are identified, thus, enabling the educator to find the most effective solution towards the problem.

In the current case study, Jessie, a six-year-old student in a new school throws tantrums that disrupt the entire class. From the analysis, it is evident that the change of the learning environment has affected the child and she is unable to cope with the new demands, hence, the problematic behavior. Jessie’s tantrums help her to avoid uncomfortable situations, however, since the behavior interrupts learning of the entire class, it is important for the teacher to come up with an ideal strategy to help the student deal with the new environment and avoid the problematic behavior. After two weeks of the intervention plan, Jessie has shown great improvement and the teacher plans on continuing the intervention for a period of two more weeks to ensure that the problematic behavior is completely eradicated.

The intervention plan was done in five stages. The first step in the implementation of an FBA is prevention that ensures that the problematic behavior is made irrelevant. For instance, the teacher welcomed Jessie to class and asked her where she wanted to sit to avoid the tantrums, which occur when she is forced to sit with unfamiliar students. Additionally, the teacher ensured that Jessie was not the first person to be asked any question. Having other students give their answers first reduced Jessie’s fear and the need to avoid the unfamiliar routine. The antecedent intervention was ideal in neutralizing the relevance of the problematic behavior and it reduced the number of times that Jessie showed the unfavorable behavior during each learning period (Garro, 2016).

The second step of the intervention plan was to devise alternative behaviors that the student could engage in rather than exhibiting the unfavorable behavior. The teacher advised Jessie to raise her hand up and voice her needs if she felt uncomfortable. If the student requested time away from the undesirable tasks in the right manner, the teacher allowed Jessie a six-minute break after which she was able to carry on with her activities. The teacher taught and reminded the student to raise her hand every time she threw a tantrum. Teaching the student and remind her about the alternative behavior was necessary for the intervention because it helped to reduce the necessity of the problematic behavior (Garro, 2016). With an alternative behavior, Jessie did not need to scream to express her displeasure or to avoid carrying out uncomfortable activities.

The third and fourth stage of the intervention plan was to extinct the problematic behavior by offering reinforcement for the desired behavior and reducing reinforcement for the problematic behavior. Jessie was given a time out if she completed the teacher’s task with exhibiting the problematic behavior. If the student screamed instead of asking for permission to rest, the teacher did not pay attention to her demands. Due to the fact that the behavior was disruptive to the class, the student was only calmed down and instructed to continue working on her project. Additionally, the teacher did not change Jessie’s sitting place when she showed the problematic behavior. On the other hand, if Jessie raised her hand to request for a timeout, the teacher would grant her request. If the student agreed to perform the task assigned, the teacher would reward her behavior by giving her an opportunity to have rest for extra 3 minutes. The two stages of the intervention plan served to make the problematic behavior ineffective because the student was denied the opportunity to rest if she did not use the right mechanism (Mainstone, 2014).

The last stage of the intervention plan involves responding to the problem behavior. At this stage, the student was punished for disrupting the learning process. The teacher ensured that the student was conversant with the requirements of the learning process and the expected behavior of the student. Further, the teacher ensured that Jessie had learned the various alternative behaviors to her problematic habits. The student also understood the repercussions for her behavior at this stage. Therefore, if Jessie screamed and threw herself to the floor, the teacher responded by punishing her in various ways, including sending her home, apologizing to the class, or faces any other reasonable disciplinary action. This last stage ensures the complete eradication of the problematic behavior and an embrace of the alternative behaviors offered.

The intervention plan has worked well so far because the student’s behavior was moderate. Furthermore, the unfamiliar environments that the student encountered after moving into a new place triggered the problematic behavior. Therefore, the problematic behavior reduced as the child became comfortable with the rest of the peers and the adults within the learning institution. Jessie does not have any medical conditions that would affect her behavior, therefore, the intervention did not require any professional involvement. Within the first week of intervention, the rate of the problematic behavior occurrence reduced by half. In the second week of the intervention, Jessie did not throw tantrums in some days. The student showed improved control of her environment and she did not avoid sitting with her peers during the lessons and during teatime. However, Jessie still showed phobia for hard tasks, however, with the constant support of the teacher, the behavior reduced greatly during the second week of the intervention.

The success of the FBA in dealing with the problematic behavior in schools is indisputable. In the case of Jessie, the mechanism helped the student to co-exist with her peers even in the new environment. Moreover, Jessie was able to handle the difficult tasks and ask for the teacher’s assistance without throwing tantrums and interrupting the learning process. The five-stage intervention plan, including behavior prevention, teaching the alternative behavior, reducing the reinforcement for the problematic behavior, offering reinforcement for the desired behavior, and responding to the problematic behavior is effective proactive interventions for moderate and extreme misbehaviors.


Garro, A. (2016). Early childhood assessment in school and clinical child psychology. New York: Springer.

Mainstone, F. (2014). Mastering whole family assessment in social work: Balancing the needs of children, adults, and their families. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Neill, O. & Stephenson, J. (2010). The use of Functional Behavioral Assessment for students with challenging behaviors: Current patterns and experience of Australian practitioners. Australian Journal of Educational & Developmental Psychology, 10 (1), 65-82.

April 19, 2023

Psychology Education

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