Sunday, February 13, 2011

Introduction to Behavioural/Functional Analysis

Behavioural/Functional Analysis, is the way of identifying the reason behind a behaviour so that it can be shaped or altered. In children with ASD we have to constantly do a behavioural analysis because many of the children will not be fully verbal, or if they are verbal, may become uncommunicative under stress. There are some important facts we need to know before we start.

All behaviour is communication
There are always pre-cursors to a behaviour
The behaviour will escalate when the cause is not acknowledge or acted upon
A lot of the "Protest" behaviours are because the demands on the child is too much.

There are only four functions (reasons) of behaviour
  1. Escape/Avoidance/Protest - "I DON'T WANT"
  2. Sensory avoidance or seeking
  3. Attention (to gain or avoid - usually gain in a social bid)
  4. Tangible - "I WANT..."
To be able to understand the reasoning for a child's behaviour, doing a "A B C chart" helps us. An A B C chart stands for
A - Antecedent (or Trigger) - what actually caused the behaviour
B - Behaviour - what was the behaviour we saw
C - Consequence - this is not necessarily what re-inforcer or punishment was given. It could be, 'how did the child or others react afterwards?'

An example of a plain 'A B C' form can be found here:

As well as the 'Trigger' we also need to be aware of the 'Setting' events that may pre-cursor the behaviour. These don't actually trigger the behaviour directly, but they may contribute to the behaviour's frequency or intensity. These setting events are usually the same for all of us:
  • illness/hormonal imbalance
  • Medication; change, introduction, ceasation
  • Sensory
  • Weather
  • Allergies
  • Tired/lack of sleep
  • Hunger
  • Changes at home (birth, death, house-move, divorce)
  • Emotional changes (e.g. Stress/Anxiety)
  • Educational changes; SEA or teacher change
  • Environmental conditions; change in furniture
Another aid to help understand behaviour to perform a frequency chart. Mark down every time we see the behaviour and when/where the behaviour occurs. Over a period of time we may be able to see a pattern in behaviour which will lead us to be able to pin-point the triggers. An example of a completed 'Frequency Chart' can be found here:

Once we have examined the setting events, the trigger and evaluated the behaviour, we can perhaps come to a conclusion as to why the behaviour happened. We can begin to understand why the child behaved as he/she did. Once we know the cause of the behaviour we can put plans in place to modify the behaviour to something or create aids, that are beneficial to the child.


  1. I am loving all of these posts. Thank you :)

  2. You're welcome Angie.. I hope they help some people out there. It seems wrong that I have access to all this info and I can't share it.


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