Special Needs Teaching and Education

Inclusive teaching, education and leadership

Behaviour Documents

The first step to unpicking a behaviour of concern is identifying the function of that behaviour. We use a simple QABF form. Here is a simple Questions about Behaviour Function(QABF) form.

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The function of behaviour is why people behave in a certain way. These may not be obvious on initial observation. So a QABF sheet can be used to more accurately identify the function. A QABF should be completed by individually by those who work with the student for one specific behaviour displayed in that particular environment. QABF exap

Available data suggests that the QABF provides a psychometrically robust tool that can be used to develop effective interventions for of individuals who display behaviours of concern.

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Data shows that interventions and strategies to focus based on QABF-identified functions were more effective than were treatments not based on QABF-identified functions.The

QABF identified a clear function in 84% of cases.4 However there may be more than 1 function for each behaviour and multiple behaviours that meet the same function.

The QABF examines 5 functions:

* Escape. The individual behaves in order to get out of doing something he/she does not want to do. This may also be to avoid a situation, task, environment or person

* Attention: The individual behaves to get focused attention from parents, teachers, siblings, peers, or other people that are around them.

* Tangibles: The individual behaves in order to get a preferred item or participate in an enjoyable activity.

* Sensory Stimulation: The individual behaves in a specific way because it feels good to them. This may also be an attempt to regulate environmental stimuli – noise, light, smell, proprioception

* Non-Social: The individual behaviour occurs automatically even when they are alone, for self-stimulation, no social input is desired.

Once the QABF has been completed hopefully a primary function has been identified, a hypothesis can be generated. If appropriate this hypothesis can be tested either through carefully managed challenge or making adaptations to the environment, activities, demands or approach. This has been proved particularly effective in reducing incidents of aggressive behaviours.

To begin addressing behaviours of concern new skills or strategies may need to be taught including but not limited to communication techniques, calming techniques or exit strategies.


Singh, N. et al (2006) Questions About Behavioral Function in Mental Illness (QABF-MI) A Behavior Checklist for Functional Assessment of Maladaptive Behavior Exhibited by Individuals With Mental Illness accessed online

Matson, J.L. (2012) Functional Assessment for Challenging Behaviors.

Matson, J. L., Bamburg, J. W., Cherry, K. E., & Paclawskyj, T. R. (1999). A validity study on the Questions About Behavioral Function (QABF) scale: Predicting treatment success for selfinjury, aggression, and stereotypes. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 20, 163-176.

Johannes Rojahn a, *, Rebecca H. Zaja a , Nicole Turygin a , Linda Moore b , Daniel J. van Ingen b (2012) Functions of maladaptive behavior in intellectual and developmental disabilities: Behavior categories and topographies. Accessed online

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