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Functional behavior assessment (FBA) is a process for determining the purpose a challenging behavior serves for an individual. Through this process, teacher, parents, and interventionists can identify environmental variables that control and maintain challenging behavior. Subsequently, they can use FBA data to design effective interventions that reduce challenging behaviors while simultaneously increasing behaviors that facilitate self-determination. In this module, we will help the reader understand the relationship between the environment and challenging behavior. Furthermore, we will describe the steps for engaging in the evidence-based FBA process, the tools available for gathering information, and guidelines for implementation of the process.

Estimated Time to Complete: 1 1/2 hours

  • What's Included
  • 30 pages
  • Pre/post-assessments
  • Optional $15 certficate
  1. Explain a rationale as to why and when an FBA should be conducted.
  2. Explain why functional behavior assessment should be considered a process rather than a form or particular procedure.
  3. Describe the three levels of functional behavior assessment.
  4. Describe the potential functions a behavior serves.
  5. Describe data collection methods and tools that are used at each level of the FBA process.
  6. Describe the advantages and disadvantages of assessment method used during FBA.
  7. Describe considerations for determining a measurement system.

Module Authors

Robert Pennington, Ph.D., BCBA-D.

Robert Pennington, Ph.D., BCBA-D, is an assistant professor at the University of Louisville. He has 20 years of experience working with children with autism in a broad range of contexts. He has presented his research findings at numerous professional conferences (i.e., Council for Exceptional Children, Association for Behavior Analysis, Division of Early Childhood, American Council of Rural Special Education) and has recently published articles in Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, Education and Treatment of Children, and Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities.

Module Contributors

Wendy Szakacs, M.S.

Wendy Szakacs is an OCALI Regional Consultant for northeast /eastern Ohio. She develops evidence-based materials, provides technical assistance and professional development leading projects in social competence, bullying, behavior, communication, and executive function. Szakacs collaborates with regional partners in the creation and presentation of professional development to local school district staff and families. She has presented at local, state, and national conferences on various topics about autism spectrum disorder, including comprehensive program planning, structured teaching, social competence, challenging behavior, and executive function.

Modules on this site are always free. If you would like proof of completion, you can purchase a certificate when you have successfully completed this module. The certificate will provide contact hours for this module.

Graduate credit for courses is available through OCALI's partnership with Ashland University. Access information about course options and semester dates in the Search.

Continuing education credit from providers such as ASHA and NASW is in progress. For questions contact

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