IDEA Rights and Requirements
IEP Team Roles and Responsibilities
Why a Functional Assessment of Behavior is Important
Conducting a Functional
Behavioral Assessment
Identifying the Problem Behavior
Possible Alternative Assessment Strategies
Techniques for Conducting the Functional Behavioral Assessment
Indirect Assessment
Direct Assessment
Data Analysis
Hypothesis Statement
Individuals Assessing Behavior
Behavior Intervention Plans
Addressing Skill Deficits
Addressing Performance Deficits
Addressing Both Skill and
Performance Deficits
Modifying the Learning Environment
Providing Supports
Evaluating the Behavior Intervention Plan
Appendix A
Appendix B


Identifying the underlying causes of behavior may take many forms; and, while the Amendments to IDEA advise a functional behavioral assessment approach (which could determine specific contributors to behavior), they do not require or suggest specific techniques or strategies to use when assessing that behavior. While there are a variety of techniques available to conduct a functional behavioral assessment, the first step in the process is to define the behavior in concrete terms. In the following section we will discuss techniques to define behavior.

Identifying the Problem Behavior

Before a functional behavioral assessment can be implemented, it is necessary to pinpoint the behavior causing learning or discipline problems, and to define that behavior in concrete terms that are easy to communicate and simple to measure and record. If descriptions of behaviors are vague (e.g., poor attitude), it is difficult to determine appropriate interventions. Examples of concrete descriptions of problem behaviors are:

Problem Behavior

Concrete Definition

Trish is aggressive. Trish hits other students during recess when she does not get her way.
Carlos is disruptive. Carlos makes irrelevant and inappropriate comments during class discussion.
Jan is hyperactive. Jan leaves her assigned area without permission.

Jan completes only small portions of her independent work.

Jan blurts out answers without raising her hand.

It may be necessary to carefully and objectively observe the student’s behavior in different settings and during different types of activities, and to conduct interviews with other school staff and caregivers, in order to pinpoint the specific characteristics of the behavior.

Once the problem behavior has been defined concretely, the team can begin to devise a plan for conducting a functional behavioral assessment to determine functions of the behavior. The following discussion can be used to guide teams in choosing the most effective techniques to determine the likely causes of behavior.

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