Akron ABA therapists

How Akron ABA Therapists Identify the Function of Behavior

You may have heard our Akron ABA therapists refer to the “function” of a behavior.

In Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a core belief is that all behavior occurs for a reason – it has a purpose. It is maintained when it serves that function.

Examples of behavior function can include:

  • Escape. Avoiding something non-preferred.
  • Attention. Does not necessarily need to be positive.
  • Access to Tangibles. A preferred item, food, activity, etc.
  • Automatic Reinforcement. The behavior itself feels good or serves a self-soothing purpose.

Why is It Important for Akron ABA Therapists to Start With the Function of a Behavior?

Identifying the function of behavior is crucial for ABA therapists for several reasons:

  1. Individualized Intervention. Understanding the function of behavior allows therapists to develop individualized and targeted intervention strategies. Different functions require different approaches. For example, if a behavior serves the purpose of escaping or avoiding a task, the therapist can develop strategies to teach more appropriate ways to request a break or manage frustration. By tailoring interventions to the specific function, therapists can effectively address the underlying reasons for the behavior.
  2. Behavior Reduction. Once the function is identified, therapists can implement interventions aimed at reducing or replacing the challenging behavior. By addressing the underlying cause or purpose of the behavior, therapists can help individuals learn alternative behaviors that serve the same function but are more socially appropriate and acceptable.
  3. Positive Behavior Support. Identifying the function of behavior is a key component of positive behavior support. It focuses on understanding the individual’s needs and providing proactive strategies to promote positive behavior. By identifying the function, therapists can create supportive environments, teach appropriate skills, and provide reinforcement for desired behaviors.
  4. Prevention and Early Intervention. Recognizing the function of behavior can help identify potential triggers and antecedents that lead to the behavior. By identifying these patterns early on, therapists can intervene before the behavior escalates or becomes more ingrained, leading to more effective prevention and early intervention strategies.
  5. Data-Driven Decision Making. ABA therapy emphasizes data collection and analysis. By identifying the function of behavior, therapists can collect data on the frequency, intensity, and duration of the behavior. This data provides valuable information for evaluating the effectiveness of interventions, making adjustments as needed, and monitoring progress over time.
  6. Collaboration and Communication. Identifying the function of behavior enhances collaboration and communication among therapists, caregivers, and other professionals involved in the individual’s care. It helps create a shared understanding of the behavior and allows for consistent strategies and interventions across different settings and contexts.

So… How do we do it?

Figuring Out the Function

Our Akron ABA therapists use a systematic approach to identify the function of a child’s behavior.

Some common steps and methods we employ:

  1. Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA): A comprehensive assessment is conducted to gather information about the behavior. This may involve direct observation, interviews with individuals who know the person well (such as parents, teachers, or caregivers), and reviewing relevant records or reports.
  2. Direct Observation: The therapist observes and records the behavior in different settings and situations. They collect data on the antecedents (what happens before the behavior occurs), the behavior itself, and the consequences (what happens immediately after the behavior). This data helps identify patterns and potential triggers or reinforcers.
  3. ABC Analysis: The therapist analyzes the antecedents, behavior, and consequences using an ABC analysis. Antecedents are the events or circumstances that precede the behavior, and consequences are the outcomes or reactions that follow the behavior. By analyzing these components, therapists can identify potential relationships between the behavior and its context.
  4. Functional Analysis: In some cases, a more structured assessment called a functional analysis may be conducted. This involves systematically manipulating the environment to determine if certain conditions reliably evoke or maintain the behavior. The therapist creates different test conditions to identify the specific variables that influence the behavior.
  5. Hypothesis Development: Based on the information gathered from the FBA, direct observation, ABC analysis, and functional analysis, the therapist develops a hypothesis about the function of the behavior. The hypothesis is an educated guess about the purpose the behavior serves for the individual. Common functions include escape/avoidance, attention-seeking, access to tangibles, or self-stimulation.
  6. Functional Behavior Assessment Summary: The therapist compiles all the information and creates a summary report, which outlines the identified behavior, the hypothesized function, and the supporting evidence. This summary serves as a guide for developing a behavior intervention plan.

It’s important to note that identifying the function of behavior is a complex process and may require ongoing assessment and refinement. Our Akron ABA therapists work closely with kids, their families, and other professionals to ensure a thorough understanding of the behavior and effective intervention strategies. If you have questions about this process, we’re happy to break it down further!

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

Four Functions of Behavior – Basic ABA Concept with Examples, July 11, 2019, By Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA, PsychCentral.com

More Blog Entries:

Top Akron ABA Therapy Strategies, Oct. 27, 2022, Akron ABA Therapists’ Blog