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Tier 3: Functional Behavior Support


Tier 3 interventions may become necessary when the student’s behavior results in continued disciplinary actions (excessive ISS / OSS days); problem behaviors pose risk to self or others; or if the student has adisability of ED or is being considered for a more restrictive placement (e.g. partial day, self-contained, homebound). Intensive Tier 3 intervention involves conducting a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) and using that information to develop a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)

Conducting a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA)

The  FBA is a systematic process for describing problem behavior and identifying the environmental factors and surrounding events associated with problem behavior. This information is used to develop an effective plan for reducing the frequency or severity of problem behavior, and to identify and teach more appropriate replacement behavior. Observation and interview procedures are usually part of a FBA.

Inappropriate student behavior may have the same form (e.g.,Joe and Matt both talk back to the teacher) but serve different functions (e.g.,Joe is seeking peer approval while Matt is attempting to control an aversive teacher-pupil interaction). Functional assessment helps staff to understand what function the problem behavior serves for the student. This enables them to determine interventions that reduce or eliminate specific problem behavior by replacing it with acceptable behavior that serves the same purpose or function for the student (e.g., teaching Joe more acceptable ways to gain peer attention). The theory behind an FBA is that practically all behavior occurs within a particular context and serves a specific purpose. Students learn to behave (or misbehave) in ways that satisfy a need or that result in a desired outcome. Students will change their behavior only when it is clear that a different response will more effectively and efficiently result in a desired outcome. Identifying the purpose  or “why” of problem behaviors or more specifically can provide information that is essential to developing instructional strategies and supports to reduce or eliminate behaviors that interfere with successful classroom performance or participation.

Conducting an FBA is generally considered to be a problem-solving process that looks beyond the behavior itself. The focus when conducting an FBA is on identifying significant, pupil-specific social, affective,cognitive, and/or environmental factors associated with the occurrence (and nonoccurrence) of specific behaviors. This broader perspective offers a better understanding of the function, or purpose, behind student behavior. Intervention plans based on an understanding of “why” a student misbehaves are extremely useful in addressing a wide range of problem behaviors. Keep in mind that an FBA is usually the first of a two-pronged approach to addressing student problem behavior. Conducting an FBA lays the foundation for  using that information in a way that helps the student develop new, appropriate replacement behaviors that are more efficient and effective at getting the him/her what he/she wants in a more appropriate manner (BIP).  

Identifying the underlying cause of problem behavior will take many forms; and, while the IDEA advises a functional assessment approach to determine specific contributors to behavior, it does not require or suggest specific techniques or strategies to use when assessing behavior. If a student with behavior difficulties is a student with a disability, his or her needs must be addressed in an IEP. In such cases, the IEP team (which includes,at the minimum, teachers, an administrator,related service personnel, parents, and the student, when appropriate) is responsible for developing the IEP. Regular education teachers who interface with the student are also involved with developing the IEP and are responsible for implementing it. When behavior is an issue to the point where discipline procedures such as suspension or expulsion are used, the IEP team must include in the student’s IEP a BIP based on an FBA. In addition, conducting an FBA and implementing intervention strategies that include a formal BIP, accommodations, and/or goals and objectives for addressing behavior is recommended for non-disabled students as well. Once the team has defined the problem behavior in concrete terms, they can begin to devise a plan for conducting an FBA to determine functions (causes) of the behavior. For students with disabilities, it is important to note that overall planning for conducting the FBA must be done within the framework of an IEP meeting.

By collecting and analyzing various kinds of information about behavior that significantly disrupts the teaching and learning process, school personnel are better able to select the most appropriate interventions. Information on the social and/or environmental context, antecedent and consequent events (i.e., events preceding or following the behavior, respectively), and past events that may influence present behavior. It also assists teams in predicting when, where, with whom, and under what conditions a certain behavior is most and/or least likely to occur.  Determining the specific contextual factors for a behavior is accomplished by collecting information on the various conditions under which a student is most and least likely to exhibit the problem behavior. That information, collected both indirectly and directly, allows staff to predict the circumstances under which the problem behavior is likely and not likely to occur. Multiple sources and methods are required for conducting a behavior assessment. A single source of information generally does not produce sufficiently accurate information, especially if the problem behavior serves several functions that vary according to circumstance.

Depending on the nature of the behavior of concern, it is crucial that multiple means be used to collect information about the behavior. This might include a review of the student’s records (educational and medical), along with an evaluation of a sample of the student’s academic products (e.g., in-class assignments, tests, homework). In addition, the team will want to use various observation procedures, questionnaires, interviews with parents, teachers, and other school staff (e.g., bus driver, cafeteria workers, playground monitors), as well as interviews with the student to better understand the causes of the specific problem behavior.

The purpose of conducting a FBA is, ultimately, to find the most effective way to address a persistent problematic behavior. Once the team has defined the behavior and gathered data about when, where, and how it is demonstrated, the team is ready to determine WHY the behavior may be occurring. Therefore, a very important part of the FBA is for the team to ascertain and form a hypothesis about why the behavior is occurring. When forming the hypothesis it is important to consider the proposed function of the problem behavior, as well as, any skill or performance deficit that may have been identified in the process. The hypothesis, then,is the statement describing the team’s conclusions about the probable cause(s) and deficit(s) for the student’s manifestation of the behavior.

When developing the hypothesis for the behavior, consider:

Why does the behavior occur? In other words: What is the student's outcome?

Some possibiities might be:

    • Attention
    • Approval of Others/Acceptance/Affiliation
    • Gain access to Objects or Activities
    • Self-Gratification/Sensory Stimulation
    • Protection
    • Power/Control
    • Justice/Revenge
    • Escape/Avoidance of a Task or an Event
    • Escape/Avoidance of Attention
    • Communicate Feelings

Why is the student unable to achieve this outcome in a more adaptive manner? In other words: What skills are lacking?

    • Language and Communication Skills
    • Attention and Working Memory Skills
    • Emotion and Self-Regulation Skills
    • Cognitive Flexibility Skills
    • Social Thinking Skills

In summary, the FBA includes:

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Developing a BIP

The behavior intervention plan is a detailed plan for implementation of the changes in antecedents, consequences, and replacement behaviors which have been identified to help the student learn more appropriate behavior. The plan usually includes baseline data on the frequency and/or severity of the problem  behavior. The  behavior is defined; the behavioral goal for the student, and specific steps to be implemented leading to an improved result are outlined. The plan also includes a method of collecting data on the student’s progress, and dates for follow-up and review of the plan. Positive behavior interventions  are proactive and result in greater skill acquisition and generalization of new skills that reduce the need for problem behaviors.

There should be a clear link between the supports and strategies selected for the BIP and the outcome of the FBA. It is also important that the BIP not become so complicated that it cannot be consistently  implemented with fidelity across the various school staff and settings.


The development of the BIP includes the following:

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Crisis Management, Safety and Elopement Plans

For behavior that poses a potential risk of injury for the student or others, it will be necessary to include a crisis management, safety and/or elopement plan. Specific details that relate to these particular concerns are required to be included  in the BIP to insure the safety of the student and others. At the same time, new skills must be taught to decrease the need for these potentially dangerous behaviors. It should be noted that at any time, student  behavior causes an imminent risk of injury and least restrictive interventions are ineffective at maintaining safety, staff may need to consider the use of CPI authorized restraint procedures by trained staff.

SBCSC Use of Seclusion and Restraint Policy

Crisis Management Plan must include:
Safety Plan must include:
  • Staff assignments for how school will increase the level of supervision of the student.
  • How staff will handle transitions within the building including any strategies necessary for specific settings (e.g. restroom, arrival and dismissal, bus).
  • How all staff who work with the student is aware of these protective measures.
  • How student’s access to identified items will be limited or denied as necessary.
  • Which staff and how student or possessions will be monitored or searched as necessary.
Elopement plan must include:
  • Summary and pattern of elopements.
  • How staff/office are notified of missing student.
  • How all staff can be utilized in the building search and specific staff assignments of what areas to search  for missing student.
  • How staff will communicate with office, parent and/or police.