Instruction in Functional Assessment introduces learners to functional assessment (FA), which includes a variety of assessment approaches (indirect, observational, and experimental) for identifying the cause of an individual’s challenging behavior for the purpose of designing effective treatments. FA is mandated by federal law and is a recognized empirically based approach to treatment of individuals with challenging behaviors (e.g., disruptive, self-injurious, and aggressive behaviors). Instruction in FA is essential for students who will one day enter professions as educators, psychologists, social workers, counselors, or mental health professionals.
The purpose of this textbook is to provide instruction in FA skills for pre-professionals in the fields of education and psychology. This supplemental resource provides the context, background, and knowledge to facilitate students’ acquisition of the methods, decision-making, and skills involved in conducting FA. Each chapter begins with focus questions designed to promote reflective thinking and ends with discussion questions. To promote application of FA in diverse situations and teach important lessons, case studies of individuals with challenging behaviors, interactive activities, and opportunities for practice are embedded in the chapters. Moreover, the text includes the ingredients to facilitate students’ role play and rehearsal of appropriate FA skills while working in cooperative groups and using performance-based training.
Chapter 1: Challenging Behaviors of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities
This chapter briefly describes the characteristics of individuals with developmental disabilities and the challenging behaviors frequently displayed by this population. Research on the behavioral principles that have been shown to account for the occurrence of challenging behaviors is summarized. The risk factors contributing to individuals’ challenging behaviors and the context in which they occur are explored to lay the groundwork for the need for effective assessment and treatment methods.
Chapter 2: The Methodology of Functional Assessment: Process and Products
This chapter defines functional assessment and describes why this approach is useful. It focuses on the methodology of functional assessment, including surveys, rating scales, observations, and experimental approaches to determine the function of behavior. The step-by-step process of functional assessment and ethical considerations are described.
Chapter 3: Treatment Implications Based on the Functional Assessment
Consideration is given to the relevant factors involved in making treatment selections based on current research and function of the individual’s challenging behaviors. To put it all together, the design of treatment as reflected in behavior intervention plans is reviewed.
Chapter 4: Teaching Functional Assessment Content
Identification of the relevant content material that provides the foundation for knowledge of functional assessment and the multiple resources available to access it are noted. Several instructionally effective methods for teaching knowledge and clinical decision-making are then briefly described.
Chapter 5: Teaching Functional Analysis
This chapter reviews how performance-based instruction and role play have been used to develop practitioner skills. Functional analysis, one type of functional assessment, involves an experimental manipulation of possible reasons for the challenging behavior. A brief description of past research involving how to teach functional analysis is reviewed. Additionally, methods of promoting generalization of those newly acquired skills beyond the training situation by incorporating case-based learning and general case strategy are described.
Chapter 6: Functional Analysis Case Training/FACT
This chapter describes a plan to guide teaching functional analysis skills in a comprehensive manner through role play, case-based teaching, and performance-based training methods. This exercise, with content material based on actual research cases, is designed to teach the process and implementation of functional analysis for use in classrooms, in-service training, and workshops.
Chapter 7: Resources for Team Members of Interdisciplinary Professionals
In this chapter, the differing perspectives of the functional assessment process are summarized. Additional examples and blank templates are shared to help broaden the reader’s approach to functional assessment.
Marcie Desrochers earned her Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of Manitoba with specialization in developmental disabilities, applied behavior analysis, and computer applications in psychology. She is a board certified behavior analysis at the doctoral level (BCBA-D). Dr. Desrochers is an Associate Professor of Psychology at The College at Brockport, State University of New York.
Marcie Desrochers has conducted research on teaching functional assessment and evaluating the effectiveness of a computer simulation program called Simulations in Developmental Disabilities. Marcie has extensive experience teaching undergraduate and graduate students, and supervising students and practitioners in the field.
Dr. Moira Fallon earned her Ph.D. in Educational Foundations from the University of New Mexico with specialties in cognitive development and special education. She has over thirty years of experience in the field of special education in public schools. She holds certifications from several states in learning disabilities, behavior disabilities, early intervention, and assistive technology.
Dr. Fallon has published widely in issues of inclusion and advocacy for individuals with disabilities. Dr. Moira Fallon has been a leader in developing learning communities, promoting school leaders for continuous improvement, and identifying research based, supportive resources for improving professional skills. She is a Professor in the Department of Education and Human Development at The College at Brockport, State University of New York.