Sad children

Behaviour Assessment

Why would a Functional Behavioural Assessment (FBA) be helpful for my child?  

(And by the way, what is it?!)


When children are having difficulties and experience problems at school or home, challenging behavior can be part of the reason that they struggle.  They may become disruptive, angry, aggressive, withdrawn, even school-phobic or truant if problems become too bad.

An FBA looks at what’s behind challenging behavior, because behaviours serve a purpose.  Young people may not be aware of why they behave the way they do but it happens for a reason.  So, if we can identify and understand what’s causing a behavior, we can find ways to change it.


  • Some young people struggle to learn or fit in due to behavioural challenges.

  • FBA is a process used to identify what’s causing challenging behavior.

  • Once we have a detailed observation and analysis, an FBA leads to a plan with strategies to improve the behavior.


Functional assessments need to be carried out by qualified behaviour experts and involves a process of information gathering about your child, observation in the challenging situations and discussion with you.  

Once we have all the information, we review it and feedback to you and others in the child’s support network as needed.  

We schedule in training and support sessions to help you and others work with the challenging behaviours. 


Stages of a functional assessment

Stage 1 - Information gathering

The Behavioural Psychologist meets for Initial assessment interviews with the young person (if appropriate) and with those who know them best.   We look at, amongst other things:


  • Life history

  • History of behaviours of concern

  • Details of behaviours of concern

  • Families’ views/understanding of behaviours

  • Previous interventions for behaviours of concern

  • Values of person/what they hope to achieve

  • Priorities of behaviour change

  • The person’s interests and motivations/preference assessments

  • What a typical day/week looks like


From this information, a schedule of the behaviour(s) to be investigated is drawn up and analysed.


Stage 2 - Observation


The Behavioural Psychologist and Assistant Psychologist visit and observe the target behaviours wherever they are, at home or at school in the classroom for example.


Stage 3 - Review and Preparation of Report 

Stage 4 - Feedback of results

Stage 5 - Training and Follow up sessions - depending on need and complexity.

Recommendations focus different areas, for example:

  • Ecological changes: This includes changes to be made to the environment in order to decrease the likelihood of the child communicating his needs through behaviours that challenge. These recommendations should be in place all day every day to reduce the likelihood of behaviours that challenge being observed.

  • Positive programming: This includes recommendations to teach general skills, teaching new skills to meet his needs through functionally equivalent and related behaviours. Meaning that he will be taught new skills other than the identified challenging behaviours to communicate his wants and needs.

  • Focused support: This includes recommendations to parents about how they can best support him or her when they shows early warning signs of challenging behaviours. The goal at this point is to reduce the likelihood of the behaviours being presented. 

  • Situational management: This includes recommendations to parents/carers about how to respond should challenging behaviour occur, despite best efforts to avoid it and the full implementation of the other recommendations identified. 


Please note:  For very severe challenging behaviour, where other intervention has not been successful, we would use the full Behaviour Assessment Guide designed by Thomas Willis, Gary LaVigna and Anne Donnellan. This is extremely comprehensive.  The above steps however include a condensed version of this that are appropriate for less complex referrals whilst still being effective in identifying the function of the behaviours of concern and identifying appropriate and successful recommended support plans.

If you would like to book an initial appointment or have further questions please contact our friendly referrals team.