Behavioural Assessment

Time should be spent assessing the behaviours causing concern as behaviours can only be effectively addressed when the factors causing the behaviour are fully understood. As a rule the function of behaviour can be explained under four headings:

Sensory Escape Attention Tangibles
How does it function for the student?
The behaviour feels good and provides preferred sensory experiences. Removes activities, tasks, instructions and/or interactions that I can’t or don’t want to engage in. Provides me with access to, or interactions with, people. Provides me with access to preferred items or activities.

Examining why a behaviour happens is often referred to as a Functional Assessment as it assesses the function of the behaviour i.e. what does the student achieve by engaging in the behaviour (e.g. enjoyment of the sensory input, escape from difficult social demands).

An ABC model is frequently adopted when assessing the functions of behaviour:

  • Antecedent i.e. what happened before the behaviour occurred?
  • Behaviour i.e. description of the behaviour
  • Consequence i.e. what happened after the behaviour occurred?

Students are observed and behaviours are recorded, including the antecedent and consequence. For example:

Date Time Setting Antecedent Behaviour Consequence
4.01.16 1.05pm School playground Other children accidentally bump into student in the playground Student pushes other students and runs out of the playground Student is transitioned to the multisensory room to calm down

The antecedent (children bumping into him) causes the behaviour to happen, but the consequence (time in the multisensory room) reinforces the behaviour so it is more likely to happen again. The next time the student wants to go to the multisensory room, he may again engage in a similar behaviour as he has learnt that this is how he can access calm time.

This type of ABC analysis assists staff in understanding why a behaviour is happening, and so helps to effectively change the behaviour. Strategies such as environmental changes, planned responses to behaviours and skill development are systematically introduced. By altering the antecedent and/or consequence, it is often possible to change the behaviour. In this example, there are 2 options:

  • Option 1
  • Remove the antecedent: allow the student to go to a quiet area/room for break and lunch times instead of the busy school playground.
  • Option 2
  • Teach effective communication: teach the student to use a visual break card when he wants to leave the playground.

In implementing these strategies, it removes the need for the student to push others or to escape from the playground. Regularly monitor, evaluate and review the effectiveness of the strategies implemented.

Link to blank Functional Assessment Template

Read next: Reinforcement →