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By John W. Maag, Ph.D.
The greatest good functional assessment can serve for a child with LD is to teach the child appropriate ways to get what he wants. Functional assessment should be conducted with any child with a disability who receives special education services and whose behavior impedes his or her own learning, impedes the learning of others, or may lead to disciplinary action. Only in this way can school staff generate a meaningful behavior intervention plan to help a child who is struggling with inappropriate behavior. A behavior intervention plan lays out the specific activities adults will undertake to:
The goal of functional assessment in dealing with inappropriate behavior is threefold. We want to:
Here is an example: Andrew is making animal noises in class. Some of the kids are laughing at him. Others are telling him to "shut up" and "act more mature." Both of these reactions (consequences) result in him getting attention from peers. His teacher can punish him for the rest of the school year, and it will have little or no effect on Andrew's behavior, other than perhaps inspiring Andrew to switch to other types of noises. This is because attention is a powerful reinforcer that all humans strive to obtain. So, when Andrew weighs staying after school (punishment) against making animal noises (to get attention from peers), he's likely to choose to make animal noises. Attention from peers feels good more than staying after school feels bad, and Andrew's scenario repeats itself daily in classrooms around the country.
Functional assessment will not yield relevant information unless there is cooperation among school, parents, and children. All three have important roles and responsibilities.
A variety of information should be collected from several sources during the first phase of functional assessment:
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