Educating Felicity & Friends

Functions of Behavior

All behavior serves a function.  It is essential that parents and educators accurately determine the function of a child's behavior in order to respond appropriately so that they are not inadvertently reinforcing behaviors they wish to eliminate. 

Determining the function of a particular behavior can be done informally through observation, or in certain circumstances, a more formal assessment may be required, such as a Functional Behavior Assessment.  A team creating an IEP (Individualized Education Program) for a student may use a Functional Behavior Assessment to help clearly define behavior(s) that interfere with the student's education, determine the cause of the behavior(s), and develop a Behavior Intervention Plan.

In my experience, behavior very often tends to serve the following functions: control, escape/avoidance, access to tangibles, attention, and sensory seeking.  ​It is crucial to implement proactive strategies to eliminate the onset of behaviors that may interfere with a child's education.  These proactive strategies include, but are not limited to, the use of positive reinforcement, offering choices, establishing routines, creating predictability, redirection, and using schedules, checklists and other visual supports.  It is important that when interfering behaviors occur, the reactive response to the behavior is one in which the dignity of the child is upheld and the interfering behavior is not inadvertently reinforced.  In general, I try to focus on finding ways to increase desired behaviors; however, there are most certainly times that I must delve into my repertoire of reactive strategies in response to a child's interfering behavior.

Very often children with developmental delays have significant communication needs that need to be addressed.  In order to increase desired behaviors in students with developmental delays, it is essential that the students are provided with programs in which improvement in communication skills is a primary goal.  ​In my experience, as students are better able to communicate needs, desires, and feelings, the frequency and intensity of interfering behaviors will often decrease significantly.   

When seeking to determine the function of interfering behaviors, it is important that medical concerns and physical needs are considered.  Children with developmental delays also frequently have individual sensory needs that need to be addressed.

Click here​ to watch videos of Felicity respond to both proactive and reactive behavior modification strategies.​