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Ep. 8: What Are the Functions of Behavior Problems?

Behavior Support | October 6, 2019

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  • Descriptions and examples of the different types of functions that problem behavior can serve.
  • What the behaviors might look like and what to look for in determining its function.
  • How to accurately determine the possibility of an automatic reinforcement of the behavior.
  • Introduction to the 5 Step Process for Behavioral Problem Solving
  • Examples of different functions across the ages and types of problems you might see in your classroom.

I talked in Episode 7 about the need to look at the functions of behavior rather than the form. Why we focus on whether it gets something or avoids something rather than whether it’s biting or spitting.

In this episode, I give you a deeper dive into what those functions can be and the beginning steps for what to look at to figure them out. You’ll also get an overview of the 5-Step Process to Behavioral Problem Solving that will guide us through the next few episodes.

Understanding the function of challenging behavior is about more than just naming it. You’ve probably heard of “escape” and “attention” as functions of behavior, but what does that really tell you? What is he escaping from? What kind of attention and from who is she getting attention? Knowing a word doesn’t lead us to know what to do about it. Understanding the dynamics and the context of the situation can.

One-word descriptions of functions of challenging behavior, don’t give us enough information to build an effective behavior support plan.

Episode 8: What are the Functions of Behavior?

People often talk about the 4 functions of challenging behavior, but in reality it’s a bit misleading to think about it that way. Human behavior is anything but simple and we do things for any range of reasons. That doesn’t mean we can’t break it down, though and really help figure out what to do about the behavior.

In order to do that, we need to know why the behavior is occurring. Generally, in behavior analysis, we talk about functions to gain something and functions to escape something. Knowing whether it’s one or the other helps, but we need to know what they are gaining or escaping for it to be really relevant.

So in this episode I’ve included lots of examples of how the functions might look in your classroom and how to try to look for the relevant variables that play a role.

How Does Knowing the Functions of Behavior Help Me in the Classroom?

I’m so glad you asked, because this episode kicks off set of episodes answering that question specifically with my 5-Step Process to Behavioral Problem Solving. I introduce the 5 steps and talk about the importance of prioritizing the problem behaviors in this episode and lay out the next few episodes of topics that will bring us to what you CAN DO about the behavior to make it better.

Looking for more ideas for preventing challenging behavior and being proactive? Check out the FREE Preventing Behavior Webinar.


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