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Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA)


A Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) is a comprehensive and individualized, problem-solving process that addresses challenging behavior. It incorporates a variety of techniques and strategies to gather information as a means of understanding the specific reasons for the student’s problem behavior and how a student’s behavior relates to or is affected by his/her environment. An FBA looks at behavior in terms of what the behavior accomplishes for the individual child, rather then the effects of the behavior on others. When conducting an FBA, it is important to gain understanding about what a child does (the behavior) and, more importantly, why a child does it (the function). Behaviors, even problem behaviors, usually serve a useful “function”, or purpose, for the child.


The most common functions of behavior include:

1) Gaining attention or reaction,

2) Gaining access to something preferred (e.g., person, item, activity, place),

3) Escaping or avoiding something unpleasant (e.g., person, place, difficult task, activity),

4) Gaining/escaping certain sensations, stimulation, or pain.



A formal functional behavior assessment usually is reserved for serious, recurring problems that do not readily respond to intervention strategies or classroom management techniques and impede a student’s learning. Although there are legal circumstances in which an FBA must be conducted, there is nothing in the law that prevents a team from concluding that an FBA and a PBIP are appropriate supports for any child. Best practice suggests that an FBA be conducted for any student whenever behavior appears to be significantly interfering with the learning process and well before behaviors reach crisis proportions. All students can benefit from the use of consistent positive behavior interventions and supports.



The process of conducting an FBA involves collecting assessment data to provide answers to the following questions:

  • What behavior do we want to change?
  • At what level does the target behavior exist (e.g., frequency, duration, etc.)?
  • What circumstances or events are likely to trigger the behavior?
  • Is the problem behavior influenced by certain events or conditions?
  • What function does the problem behavior serve?
  • Is the problem behavior a performance deficit or a skill deficit?

The FBA process involves 4 steps:

  1. Identify the Problem Behavior
  2. Gather Sources of Information
  3. Summarize Assessment Data
  4. Formulate Summary Statements