Functional Assessment Methods in ABA



A functional assessment is a required precursor to any behavior intervention plan. It helps us identify problem behaviors, hypothesize their function, and guides our treatment development. There are 3 primary methods for determining function which should be used together, not one or the other.


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Indirect Assessment

This type of assessment is typically conducted with parents, caregivers, teachers, and anyone else in the client's environment. It can even include the client if they are able to participate, but it indirectly gathers information about the behaviors of interest without directly observing them. Some indirect assessments include structured or open-ended parent interviews as well as rating scales such as the Questions About Behavior Function (QABF) or the Motivation Assessment Scale (MAS).


Pros:

  • Quick and easy to use

  • Low risk as behaviors don't have to occur

  • Useful for low-frequency or difficult to assess behaviors

Cons:

  • Not reliable

  • Unclear method for determining function

  • Requires faithful recollection of behaviors


Descriptive Assessments

This type of assessment is conducted in the natural environment where the behavior is occurring and can be observed directly. Direct assessments can include narratives, A-B-C data, scatterplot data, and more.


Pros:

  • You can see the full range of antecedents and consequences

  • Any environmental variables affecting the behavior can be observed

Cons:

  • The data is correlational

  • May have reactivity from the client

  • Could be difficult to obtain an adequate sample of the behavior


Functional Analysis

This type of assessment contrives conditions to simulate circumstances that evoke the problem behaviors. Behaviors in the test and control conditions are compared to determine the function of the behavior.


Pros:

  • It determines the ACTUAL function of the behaviors, not correlational

  • May reveal potential treatment effects

Cons:

  • Complex and time-intensive

  • Might not include relevant test conditions



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© 2015 by Melissa Druskis

Please consult a qualified BCBA before implementing an ABA program for dangerous behaviors

The views and opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of the people, institutions, or organizations that I may be affiliated with.