I just wanted to recap before I moved onto my next subjects in the different kind of work we’ll be doing at No Limits. Most ABA companies do what’s called an FBA (functional behavior assessment) but ONLY include both indirect assessment and descriptive assessments. They omit an FA (functional analysis). The purpose of the functional analysis is to prove or disprove the hypothesis of behavior.
Typically in an FBA- let’s say John likes to hit other people. First a BCBA talks to family members, maybe school personnel or other therapists. Then they do descriptive assessments- they observe the behavior, they watch what happens, they may use a scatter plot or ABC data (antecedent, behavior, consequence). Then they take all that info and decide that John is acting out because he wants his iPad. And he will hit people if denied access to that iPad. So great, now they develop a program and include both antecedent strategies and consequence strategies (after the behavior happens). Then they add programs to increase John’s skills so maybe he won’t hit so much. They add a frequency counter for when John hits other people to keep track and assume if John hits less, then the strategies are working.
An FA is completely omitted.
In an FA. We do all of those things and then, we set out to prove that John is hitting to get his iPad. So we set up a situation where John might have many things he likes. We let him play on the iPad or Xbox or eat snacks he loves or shoot hoops, whatever it is that John likes. We set him up to be happy, relaxed and engaged with his surrounds and with staff. He’s a happy boy. Then John is playing with his iPad and we might be, hey John, let me see your iPad. John says, no thank you, it’s mine. We say okay and John continues playing. Then maybe we put our hands on John’s iPad. John screams and turns away from us. Okay, you can keep your iPad John.
Notice John is not hitting us yet. We have determined that John is indeed displaying behaviors on attempts to take the iPad. We have proven that now- he will verbally say no and possibly scream if it’s taken further. But he hasn’t socked us yet. And he won’t. Because now we know John cannot tolerate the iPad being taken. We DON’T want John to get to the level to sock us. It’s unsafe for us, it’s unsafe for John. And what are we teaching John if we forcibly remove the iPad like that- that it’s okay to just take things? To not respect how John feels about the iPad?
So instead we stop at this point and conclude John emits some low level, low magnitude behaviors prior to hitting people. THAT we can work with. We can now teach John to tolerate and accept that sometimes he might have to put that iPad down. I will go into those steps later. Also, important to note, if during treatment John does hit a staff member we will be having a meeting. Why did John progress to hitting the staff member? Was the protocol followed? Was something missed? Was his lower level behaviors missed? No longer is hitting just a frequency count. It MEANS something. And we will figure out what that does mean.
And maybe six months from now John now tolerates removal of the iPad and hitting for that is now down to zero. And his lower level behaviors are also down to nothing. We have taught John to tolerate denial of the iPad and now he is much more willing to work and do the things he needs to do without staff worrying and without John worrying that the behavior will escalate. He learned to tolerate a very difficult situation and without the use of control or force on both sides. We made a significant change in John’s life and his families life. We were not satisfied that John would continue to hit PLUS we discovered John had warning signs prior to that explosive behavior and we were able to work with that and mitigate those and both treat John with the respect he deserved and our staff. We didn’t prepare for the situation to be unsafe. We prepared for it to be a safe place for John to work through his frustrations.
And to me, this is the difference we are trying to make and why every child that walks through our doors will receive an FA and corresponding treatment plan. Not just based on descriptions or indirect assessments. We want to know WHY the problem is happening and PROVE it so we aren’t just guessing. We aren’t just accepting these high level behaviors and hoping they will go down.
And we will respect John and his choices and strive for John to not be in fight or flight mode where he feels like he has to hit.
Be the change you want to see in the world. We are striving to be that change.
And always I do this for Kreed. Who often didn’t get the respect he deserved, which also ultimately led to his death through lack of understanding and listening by many professionals. We know we can do better. I and my company will do better.

Functional Analysis Continued