Understanding the Functional Behavioral Assessment: Why Comprehensive Data Collection is Critical

If you're a parent of a child with behavioral issues at school, you may have heard the term "functional behavioral assessment" (FBA) thrown around. But what exactly is an FBA, and why is it important? In this blog post, I'll share the red flags of an FBA that is not done correctly, how to spot if the school had not done due diligence while also discussing the importance of having a qualified person taking data, preferably a BCBA, it should include ABC data and data taken in different times of day, locations, with different people.

An FBA is a process that is often used to help identify the underlying causes of a child's challenging behavior. By examining the behaviors themselves (the "B"), the events or situations that trigger the behaviors (the "A"), and the consequences that follow the behaviors (the "C"), a team can use data to identify patterns and develop effective interventions. An FBA may be conducted by a team of school specialists or whenever possible in should be conducted by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). When done correctly, the information gathered can be incredibly helpful in developing effective interventions for a child.

Unfortunately, not all FBAs are created equal. Here are some red flags that the FBA may not have been done as thoroughly or comprehensively as it should have been:

Lack of data: One of the most common issues with FBAs is that data is not collected from a variety of sources, such as different times of day, locations, and with different people. When data is only taken in one or two situations, it may not present a complete picture of the child's behavior.

Incomplete data: Data that only focuses on what triggers the behavior or what happens immediately following the behavior is not enough. A good FBA should also include information about what happens leading up to the behavior, what the behavior itself looks like, and what happens after the behavior occurs. This is often referred to as ABC data.

Lack of specificity: A good FBA should be specific to the child's behavior and should not rely on generalizations or assumptions. For example, an FBA that identifies "attention-seeking behavior" as the main issue may not provide enough information to develop effective interventions.

Lack of expertise: In order for an FBA to be done correctly, it's important that the person(s) collecting and analyzing the data have the necessary expertise. Ideally, this would be a BCBA or someone else who has specific training and experience in behavior analysis. When data is collected by someone without this expertise, it may not be as accurate or useful.

If you suspect that your child's FBA may not have been done correctly, there are a few things you can do. First, make sure you have a copy of the FBA report and go through it carefully. Look for the red flags mentioned above, as well as any other issues that concern you. If you have questions or concerns, bring them up with your child's school team and/or the evaluator who conducted the FBA.

Additionally, if you disagree with the outcome of the data or believe it has not been accurately collected, you can request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) for the FBA.

It's important to note that not all schools or evaluators will automatically offer an FBA, even if one is needed. As a parent, it's important to advocate for your child and ask for an FBA if you feel it is necessary. You may also want to consider seeking an outside evaluation if you don't feel comfortable with the FBA conducted by the school.

In conclusion, an FBA can be an incredibly helpful tool in identifying and addressing a child's challenging behavior at school. However, it's important to make sure that the FBA is done correctly, with a focus on collecting comprehensive and specific data from a variety of sources by a qualified individual. If you have any concerns about your child's FBA, reach out to a behavior specialist.

If you are looking to add an advocate to your team, please reach out to me. I earned my Masters in Education in Behavior Science. I can help you navigate the system and help put supports in place for your child at school to encourage them to be their best self and find success at school.