Functional Behavior Assessments

Why is a student exhibiting challenging behavior at school?

ABC:This method is often used in the data gathering process when conducting the Functional Behavior Assessments, also called a FBA. The steps include:

  • Antecedent: what is happening before the behavior begins?
  • Behavior: what is the challenging behavior?
  • Consequences: what is the result of the behavior?

The person conducting the FBA gathers this information through observation and data provided by educators, related service providers and parents


Identify and agree on the behavior(s) that need to change. The identification process begins with describing the challenging behaviors so that everyone understands the concern. If a child has many problem behaviors, it is important to focus on those that are the most serious. Usually the IEP team meets to discuss what has been occurring in school with input from the parents.


Determine where the behaviors do and do not occur. The team may conduct interviews, perform observations, and discuss the following questions:

  • What is different about the places where the behaviors do not occur?
  • What is different about the places where the problem behaviors do occur?
  • Is the problem behavior related to how the child responds to the teacher or peers?
  • Does the number of other students present, or the difficulty of the schoolwork, cause a problem?
  • Does the time of day or a child’s mood affect the behavior? Are there daily problems for the child (such as on the bus in the morning, or challenges with peers in the hallway)?
  • Do the behaviors occur in a specific set of circumstances or a specific setting?
  • What specific events seem to support or influence the problem behaviors?


Collect information on the child’s performance from as many sources as possible. There may be other places to get information about the child’s challenging behaviors. That may include a review of previous assessment data, behavior incident reports, and other documented information the school has about the child’s behavior. Parents also might share information from other assessments including mental health providers. While this is good information to know, parents should be knowledgeable about how much private health information they should share.


Develop an informed guess about why problem behaviors occur (the function of the behaviors). Using all the information gathered through observation and a review of data, an idea of why the behavior occurs is stated. This helps predict where and why your child’s problem behaviors are most and least likely to occur.


Identify behaviors that can be taught and supported within the school and that provide your child with positive alternatives to the problem behavior(s). Some students need to be concretely taught appropriate behavior repeatedly and receive positive input to reinforce the changes.


Utah Special Education rules and the IDEA require an FBA whenever a child with a disability has an educational placement change for disciplinary reasons in the following instances:

  1. When a child is removed from school for more than 10 consecutive days or series of removals totaling 10 full or partial days for behavior that is a manifestation of the student’s disability.
  2. When a child is removed for more than 10 school days for conduct that is not a manifestation of the disability but the IEP team determines that an FBA is necessary.
  3. When a child is placed in an interim alternative educational setting for not more than 45 school days for behavior involving a dangerous weapon, illegal drugs or infliction of serious bodily injury.


The team will meet to review data and develop a positive behavior intervention plan as explained on our website. This may occur directly after the team has met for the FBA results or at another time.


Parents are important members of the team that develops the FBA. You will be asked to give input including what you have observed at home. A parent can request the team conduct a FBA when there is ongoing behavior that doesn’t respond to typical interventions. You don’t have to wait until behavior has hit critical mass. When a child has been suspended for full or partial days, these count toward the 10 day requirement as mentioned above. If you have more questions, check out the resources listed on our website or contact the Utah Parent Center to speak with a parent consultant.

1. Define the Problem

Review data: Is it working?

2. Problem Analysis

Design, implement, and monitor progress: What can we do to help?


Problem Analysis


Implement a Plan




Define the Problem

3. Implement a Plan

Describe using objective, measurable terms: What is the problem?

4. Evaluate

Collect information from multiple sources and settings: What seems to be causing the problem?

Information Sheets

Linked Websites

The ABCs of Behavior Analysis
One of the components of a functional behavior analysis (FBA) or any systematic study of behavior is to note what happened prior to the event, what the behavior looked liked, and what happened after the behavior. The acronym “ABC” in this case stands for “Antecedent, Behavior, Consequences.”

Behavior at School

From the Center for Parent Information and Resources comes information on behavior. Behavior at school: What a gigantic topic, for families and schools alike. CPIR is pleased to connect you with resources for helping children with disabilities with respect to behavior at school.

Functional Assessment: What It Is and How It works
A functional assessment is an approach to figuring out why a child acts a certain way. It uses a variety of techniques to understand what’s behind inappropriate behaviors. This includes looking at non-academic factors that might be contributing to the child’s frustration with learning. Knowing what’s behind inappropriate behavior can help parents and the school find ways to change the behavior.

Functional Behavior Assessment

A step by step guide to FBA is provided by

What is a Functional Behavior Assessment?

This site from provides information about FBA as well as information on other behavior related issues. 

Functional Behavior Assesment

PBIS World provides a variety of information sheets and resources about FBA and behavior including positive behavior interventions. 


We at the Utah Parent Center hope this information will be helpful to you in understanding your child’s behavior and assist you in working with school professionals. Be sure to access our website to review our resources. If you have concerns or questions, please give us a call and speak with one of our knowledgeable parent consultants.

5296 S Commerce Dr., Suite 302, Salt Lake City, UT 84107
Phone: 801.272.1051
Toll-Free in Utah: 1.800.468.1160

This page was funded by a grant from Interagency Outreach Training Initiative at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities.