Getting started with telehealth for early intervention: Learning modules

Functional assessment of interfering behavior

The ‘function’ of an interfering behavior is determining why the behavior may be occurring, such as what typically happens when the behavior occurs.

Your provider will use the information that is collected to hypothesize the function (or the why) so that they can make an individualized intervention plan for your child and help your child learn appropriate replacement skills to communicate in other ways to achieve the same function (or to achieve the same why).

This information also provides context around the interfering behavior, if it happens more when your child is tired or the enviornment is too noisy, or when there is an abrupt change in routine. The plan should include how to help support your child through these contextual factors as well, such as providing different supports to your child (e.g., quieter location), structuring some time to rest after a busy day at preschool, or a visual schedule to indicate when changes in routine may occur. 

Most functions can be determined through observation of the consequences following an interfering behavior. In this situation, consequence does not mean what we typically think about with the word consequence (such as “losing screentime”). In these observations, consequence simply means whatever immediately happens in the enviornment after an interfering behavior, even if it is not intentional. 

Providers will use Context-Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence to observe the interfering behavior.

  1. Context
  2. Antecedent
  3. Interfering behavior
  4. Consequence

This is what these terms mean:

Things going on/states of being that day or during that activity that potentially influenced the likelihood of the interfering behavior.

Examples of contexts may be that your child woke up extra early and may be tired, or that it is raining outside and so a trip to the beach needed to be postponed earlier that day.

What was happening immediately behavior an interfering behavior occurred.

For example, maybe you received a phone call and needed to temporarily leave the room, or maybe the tablet device that the child was watching a show on ran out of charge and unexpectedly shut off.

Your provider will create a definition of what counts as the interfering behavior with you that is easy to observe. This will ensure that your provider can track if the intervention is effective at decreasing the interfering behavior. If it is not, then your provider will work with you to adjust the intervention.

The consequence is what is observed to happen in the environment immediately following the interfering behavior.

For example, maybe when a child attempts to kick their younger sibling, the parent moves the younger sibling away from the child, or maybe when a child hits another child at day care, the day care provider tells the child that they need to have “safe hands.” These events would be recorded as the consequences to the behavior.