Function-Based Planning for Young Children At Risk for Emotional and Behavioral Disorders – a journal article review
Functional Behavior Assessments are being use to document and treat behavior disorders in young children. Usually the assessment is conducted by an Educational Specialist, Behavior Specialist, or school Psychologist and implemented by the student’s teacher. A child’s behavior functions to attain something or to avoid something. A intense investigation in to the circumstances and environment involved when children exhibit extremely deviant behaviors will yield a hypothesis as to what function the behavior serves. Once the function is identified, the child can be taught replacement behavior to use in order to attain or avoid a situation. In some cases, environmental changes such as the instructional methods are necessary. When quality assessments are done, results are usually favorable.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of the function based intervention with young children at-risk of EBD and the validity of these interventions in a classroom setting and the staff responsible for implementing them. There were three students in the study. Two were kindergarteners and one was a first grade student. All were in a general education inclusive classroom setting. The study was conducted in three phases. The first phase involved developing a FBA for each student in the study. The second phase involved constructing the intervention and testing it in the class. The third phase involved implementation in the classroom for an extended period of time during the activity that the teacher identified as being the most problematic.
The study was conducted in a K-6 elementary school that serves about 800 students in 35 classrooms. The school had a three tiered model of behavior supports. The first tier was a school wide discipline model used to address behavior needs of the majority of the students. Students who continued to exhibit behavior problems were advanced to tier two. Tier two consisted of targeted interventions. Interventions could include a daily management system, direct instruction in the replacement behaviors, or opportunities to practice the replacement behaviors. When tier two was not successful students were escalated to tier three. Non responsiveness to tier two is defined as five or more discipline referrals while within five or fewer weeks while receiving tier two interventions.
The subjects were three students. Two were in general education kindergarten and one was in the first-grade. They were selected at random from a population that displayed chronic disruptive behavior and had escalated to tier three. Each student was administered the Behavior Assessment System for Children – Second Edition )Reynolds & Kamphaus, 2004). Each child’s teacher completed the Teacher Rating Scale (TRS) for children ages 2-5 or 6-11. Screening had to yield either at-risk on two of the following scales. Attention, Conduct Problems, Hyperactivity, Social Skills, or Adaptability.
Josh was a 6-year old first grader of Hispanic origin. His class included 30 children and his teacher had five years of teaching experience. Zane was a Caucasian 5-yearold in full day kindergarten. His class included 25 students and his teacher had four years of experience. Ian was a Caucasian 6-year old in full day kindergarten. His class included 30 students and his teacher had 1 year of teaching experience. None of the children had been identified for special education services, however all three were considered at risk due to ongoing disruptive behaviors that jeopardized their access and the access of their peers to the general curriculum. Disruptive behavior for all three subjects included, playing with objects at seat, lying on the floor crying, refusing to follow an adult direction, calling out during instruction, talking with neighbors, calling out without raising hand, getting out of seat, and in the case of one child, destroying property. The replacement behavior for all three children was identified as “on-task” and was defined as engaging in the teacher-directed instruction and following teacher led expectations.
In phase one a descriptive FBA was conducted for each of the children to identify the antecedent conditions that set of their target behaviors. Data was collected via file review, teacher interviews, structured student interview, and structured observations.
In phase two, function-based interventions were developed and tested briefly through reversal conditions. Function based interventions were developed by answering two questions. Can the student perform the replacement behavior, and do the antecedent conditions represent effective practice? The answers to these questions led to four possible outcomes. 1) If the student cannot perform the replacement behavior and the antecedent conditions represent effective practices, then method one, teach the replacement behavior is used. 2) If the student can perform the replacement behavior, but the antecedent conditions do not represent effective practice, then method two, improve the environment is implemented. 3) Methods one and two are both applied if the answer to both questions is no. 4) Method three is to adjust the contingencies if the answers to both questions is yes.
The interventions developed for each student were tested. Sessions were conducted during the activity each teacher identified as being most problematic. Sessions lasted the normal length of the activity which ranged from 10 to 25 minutes. On-task behavior was measured using 30-s whole-interval recording method. A + was recorded if all intervention components required during the interval were correctly implemented throughout the entire 30s. If staff failed to implement any required part of the intervention at any point during an interval, a – was scored. Inter-observer agreement (IOA)data was collected during all intervention testing conditions. IOA for the replacement behaviors and treatment integrity were calculated using the exact interval by interval method. Each interval scored identically was considered in agreement. IOA was calculated by dividing the total number of agreements by the total number of intervals and multiplying by 100%. IOA for replacement behaviors and treatment integrity averaged 97.5% and 96% respectively. Kappa was also performed to determine consistency among observers. Kappa for replacement behavior averaged .95 and for treatment integrity averaged .88.
The intervention testing results showed that all students increased on-task behavior when baseline and intervention sessions were compared. The interventions were implemented with high levels of fidelity. Two of the three children showed substantial reductions in their rates of office referrals from approximately once per week before the study to once per month during the study. The study effectively demonstrated that by changing the environment, and or teaching the replacement behavior, improvements in behavior can be documented. The environmental changes involved changes in teaching practices, which points outs the strong need for the teacher to have knowledge of which practices work for the child.
The most powerful and insightful knowledge gained from this journal article was the examination of the environment in order to hypothesize the behavior function. In the article it was stated as whether the antecedent conditions reflected effective practices. There was no detail given to how effective practices were defined, but it could be assumed that the investigator had to pass judgment on the teacher’s teaching practice. In one case, Josh, it was stated that current instructional practices were not designed to address his limited attention span or to clarify directions for items that he struggled with, therefore, an improvement in the environment was part of the intervention.
Thought was given regarding some of the practices that teachers use to stop kids from blurting out, such as “raise your hand,” and “equity sticks,” and how changing from one technique to the other could help a child’s behavior. The article also help with the understanding that a good environmental analysis in a Functional Assessment, goes beyond a description of environmental factors such as physical space and teaching style, and extends to address the environmental factors that serve as an antecedent for the student’s behavior.
Nahgahgwon, K., Umbreit, J., Liaupsin, C. Turton, A. (2010) Function-based planning for young children at risk of emotional and behavioral disorders. Education and Treatment of Children Vol 33, No 4, p537-559
Reynolds, C. & Kamphaus, R. (2004) Behavior assessment systems for children (2nd ed., BASC-2). Bloomington, MN: Pearson Assessment.
Vannest, K., Davis, J., Davis, C., Mason, B., Burke, M. (2010) Effective intervention for behavior with a daily behavior report card” a meta-analysis. School Psychology Review Vol 39, No. 4, pp654-672