Jul 30, 2014

The Teacher as a Leader: Ways to Identify the Function of a Behavior

There are obviously many reasons why people behavior the way they do. Some people have medical and physiological reasons for their behavior, some want to show power and control among other things.  So when it comes to labeling functions for behaviors, you could get many different functions from many different people. Some people label more than 4 functions or reasons for behaviors, but typically, people show a behavior because they usually find one of the following items reinforcing:

·         Escape/Avoidance of a Situation
      (For example: Work, uncomfortable clothes, loud noise, touching water)
       Gaining Attention
      (For example: Attention from the adult, attention from another child)
       Gaining a Tangible Item
      (For example: Getting food, toy, book, or teacher’s materials)
       Sensory Input
      (For example: Mouthing objects, spinning items, or putting hands in ears)

These are some indicators that are typically evidence of one function or another.  This list is not limited to these items only, because students are individuals and have unique circumstances.  Also, we know that sometimes a student’s behavior can have more than one function.
So how do you know?  Well, it is really a matter of observing, taking data and asking yourself and your team a series of questions. These questions are outlined in the Teacher as a Leader for Special Education Teachers (Part 7: Identifying the Function ofa Behavior) Powerpoint presentation. 

As discussed in previous posts in this series, The Teacher as a Leader Series was created as a guide for teachers to help conduct small scale (team meetings) or large scale (group presentations) professional development exercises with the other members of their classroom team or other members of their school team. The series aims to give a starting point for discussion and guidance on topic that will ultimately help to improve the capacity for teaching special learners for the teacher, paraprofessional and 1:1 assistant at the school level, while also improving student outcomes.  An example from the presentation:

Ask yourself these questions as possible indicators of escape/avoidance reinforcement:
•Is the individual engaged in the behavior when a task is presented?
•Does the individual engage in the behavior when a new activity begins?
•Does the individual engage in the behavior when a stimuli they view/perceive as aversive is presented?
•Does the behavior end when the student is allowed to leave the activity?

Questions about various functions are also outlined in the the freebie Autism Support Posters by Autism Classroom.

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