Sunday, July 31, 2011

Behavior - is working for him or just 'poor coping skills'

From -

For the unfamiliar, a functional assessment (sometimes called a functional analysis) is a procedure through which the function (causes, purposes, goals) of a kid’s challenging behavior is identified. Though FBAs are common in schools, the information gathered through and inferences drawn from a functional analysis vary depending on the orientation, training, and experience of the evaluator conducting the procedure.

A core assumption guiding most FBAs is that maladaptive behavior is “working” for a kid by allowing him to “get” something desirable (e.g., attention, peer approval) or “escape” or “avoid” something undesirable (e.g., a difficult, tedious, unpleasant task). 

The belief that challenging behaviors are somehow “working” for a kid leads many adults to the conclusion that those behaviors are purposeful -- what might be referred to as the intentionality attributional bias -- and this can set the stage for misguided statements such as, “It must be working for him or he wouldn’t be doing it.”

 This mentality invariably sets the stage for interventions aimed at punishing kids’ challenging behaviors so the behaviors don’t “work” anymore, and rewarding adaptive replacement behaviors to encourage ones that “work” better. This is the foundation of most school discipline programs.

But this definition of “function” reflects what I call the “first pass” of a functional assessment. There’s an indispensable “second pass” – a deeper level of analysis – that, regrettably, often goes neglected: What lagging skills account for why the kid is getting, avoiding, and escaping in such a maladaptive fashion? 

This question springs from the core mentality of the CPS model (Kids do well if they can) and from the assumption that if a kid could get, escape, or avoid in an adaptive fashion – in a way that “worked” without causing all the misery that accompanies his challenging behavior – he surely would. 

When one is focused on the “second pass” of a functional assessment, it becomes clear that the essential function of challenging behavior is to communicate to adults that a kid doesn’t possess the skills to handle certain challenges under certain conditions. This belief sets the stage for interventions aimed at teaching lagging cognitive skills and helping kids solve the problems that are precipitating their challenging behavior.


No comments:

Post a Comment