The first step to uncovering the driver of a behaviour of concern, or the action that is having negative impact on their quality of life is identifying the function of that behaviour. There are a number of ways we can start doing this I am going to discuss and provide the tools I have found useful. I want to stress this should form part of a cohesive record including input from parents, carers and the child themselves if appropriate.
The simplest is by observation, there are many ways to do this from an ABC chart that many of you will have heard of or even used.
Then there is a more formal observation, maybe asked for by a teacher is they want a pair of fresh eyes on a situation. I have developed this form that links to the function of behaviour sheet before. This is subjective and just provides some formality to the process. Our behaviour support team can add their ideas or recommendations. It might even be worth the teacher taking a step back to observe their own student while someone else leads.
If you want to look into the function further it may be helpful to use a Questions about behaviour function form (QABF)
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.
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.
Monitoring Behaviour for Functional Behaviour Analysis
Establishing a baseline level for behaviour is important prior to trailing any interventions. One of the ways to do this is to monitor the duration of the behaviour throughout the day. This sheet wont capture any ABC but will give you an idea of the level of disruption to learning or progress that the behaviour has. You colour a block for each minute that behaviour is displayed across that day. This way you end up with a bar chart style representation of the data. A good place to start a discussion. You can also use this to monitor the effectiveness of any intervention you are trying. I think it is important to give anything at least two weeks to embed but you might want to delete some boxes. 30 minutes may also be too much.
Strategy Effectiveness Form.
We talk a lot about Proactive and Active strategies in the training I deliver but usually don’t systematically assess the impact of each individual strategy. This form allows you to track and then analyse the use of 4 Proactive and Active (your planned response to the behaviour). You tick a box every time you use a strategy and tick the next box every time this is effective. You can then see which interventions to continue with and which to adapt.
Engagement Levels and SEND learners.
Anyone working in special educational needs will by now have heard of the Rochford review that looks at the place of P-Levels with our students. It notes the importance of engagement. This is also true when students display challenging behaviour, are they engaged or even ready to learn?
Throughout the day it is easy to lose track of what exactly you are doing that works or doesn’t when getting a student engaged in an activity. This simple tracker lets you note the time and activity and whether the student engaged or not. It then asks you to record any negative behaviors displayed so you can add them to a behaviour support plan. I added a box to capture what you did that was effective – this information is invaluable. Again you will need to complete it a few times to start building a picture or to identify patterns – enagages more after lunch etc.
I hope you find these helpful. Feel free to add a comment if you would like anything else.
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