Functional Factors: The Big Idea
- All problem behavior serves a purpose (function) for the student who uses it. This behavior has worked in the past, or is working currently to achieve an outcome desired by the student...or is the student's best available response.
- Problem behaviors have often developed as a reaction to environmental demands which have overwhelmed a student’s coping system.
- Problem behaviors continue and generalize over time because they work. Remember, these problem behaviors help the student achieve a reinforcing outcome.
- Knowing what the student is achieving that is reinforcing to him/her is critical so we can design a way for him/her to get this outcome in an appropriate way. This is a Functionally Equivalent Replacement Behavior (FERB).
- All successful plans address two parts: In addition to changing the environment to remove the need for the student to use the problem behavior, we need to teach the student a FERB that is more socially acceptable than the problem behavior, yet allow the student to meet the same outcome as the problem behavior.
All behavior, whether desirable or undesirable to those around the person, serves one of two functions for the individual:
- Get Something—e.g., an object; attention from peers or adults; an activity, self-stimulation, money, desirable comments from peers
- Reject Something—Avoid, Escape or Protest Something Undesired— e.g., escape an assigned task the student states is “too long, too hard, too boring, not meaningful, or too easy and I don’t want others to see me doing this,” to protest negative peer comments or interactions, to protest an adult’s public comment on the student’s low skills.
The FBA/BSP Team’s task: Identify the function, teach a FERB and reinforce the student’s conditional use of this FERB (i.e., under conditions student would use the problem behavior, the FERB is used instead).
Ultimately, we want the student to not use problem behavior, but rather use all appropriate, socially acceptable positive behaviors associated with academic and social success. However, when a problem behavior achieves a specific outcome, it is necessary to accept a different, but more socially acceptable way of getting or rejecting something while we continue to alter environments and teach and reinforce those desired general positive behaviors.