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The Process of Positive Behavior Support (PBS)

Step Three: Functional Behavioral Assessment

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Observation, whether anecdotal or systematic, is the foundation of the functional behavior assessment process. In its simplest form, observation is a means of describing a child’s behavior at any given moment—what the behavior looks like and how often it occurs, as well as its length and intensity. Behavior can be observed either anecdotally or systematically.

Anecdotal behavioral observations are informal in nature—they might include notes taken while observing a child’s performance during playtime, a parents’ recollection of his/her child’s behavior earlier in the day, scatter plots (i.e., charts used to record whether or not a child’s behavior occurred across activities, routines, or time periods), or antecedent-behavior-consequence analyses (Hieneman et al., 1999). In either case, there is no specific type of measurement procedure used to document the child’s behavior.

In contrast, systematic behavioral observations are more structured and controlled—a trained observer would either physically sit in the same room and watch the child or use a videotape recorder to tape the child’s behavior.

Regardless of which type of behavior observation technique is used, it is critically important to conduct as many observations as possible so that the child’s behavior support team can be reasonably confident that the data obtained is both accurate and reflective of the child’s typical behavior. The rule of thumb is that unless the child’s behavior is dangerous to him/herself or others, the more observation data the better.

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