A background in functional assessment is critical for all pre-professionals who are entering educational and mental health service fields and preparing to work with children and adults with developmental disabilities. Functional assessment (FA) includes a variety of assessment approaches (e.g., indirect, observational, and experimental) for identifying the cause of the individual’s challenging behavior in order to design effective treatment. FA is mandated by federal laws for use in schools (IDEIA, 2004) and is an approach based on several decades of research demonstrating its effectiveness (Beavers, Iwata, & Lerman, 2013). As new professionals enter applied settings with initial training, they must demonstrate the knowledge and skills to work with all persons, including those whose behaviors are different and challenging. Children and adults whose behaviors are challenging deserve the opportunity to develop to their full potential (Fallon & Brown, 2010). FA procedures give professionals the tools to analyze and remediate those challenging behaviors that stand in the way of healthy development and high quality of life.

As inclusion continues to evolve in public school classrooms, work sites, and residential communities, psychologists, social workers, educators, counselors, and mental health professionals need to know FA procedures well and apply them with a variety of client characteristics and in multiple settings. The authors of this book believe that all interdisciplinary professionals and the families of persons with challenging behaviors need expertise in the professional skills of assessing and managing challenging and unique behaviors.

What is the purpose of this book? The purpose of this book is to teach interdisciplinary professionals about the process of functional assessment (FA). As inclusion continues to evolve in public school classrooms across the United States, those professionals’ beliefs and practices are challenged by the changes in the students who make up their classroom communities (Shapon-Shevin, 2007). As many more people with challenging behaviors and unique characteristics enter new inclusive or heterogeneous settings, professionals may be ill-prepared to manage their behaviors. As new, pre-service level professionals enter their disciplines of education and psychology with initial training, they must demonstrate the dispositions, knowledge, and skills to work with all persons, including those whose behaviors are challenging. Children whose behaviors are challenging deserve the opportunity to develop to their full potential (Fallon & Brown, 2010). The emphasis of this book is on empirically-based strategies for teaching functional assessment to pre-professionals who will work in inclusive settings. The intended audience for this book is students who will be future teachers, therapists, and practitioners in the disciplines of psychology, mental health, counseling, social work, and education. The book may be used as the main textbook for teaching FA techniques, a supplementary text, or as a reference source for new professionals working in the field. Although methods to effectively teach various aspects of a FA approach have been studied (e.g., Iwata et al., 2000; Wallace, Doney, Mintz-Resudek, & Tarbox, 2004), none have ‘put-it-all together’ in a comprehensive package that guides college students and pre-professionals through the research, theory, and practice needed to perform this useful and effective method that is the cornerstone of practice in many professional disciplines today.

One of the unique features of this book is the integration of both psychological and educational perspectives embedded into the content. For instance, a psychologist may encounter a situation in which an individual’s challenging behavior is presented in the school, home, vocational rehabilitation site, or work setting. An educator or counselor may find instances of challenging behaviors with children in kindergarten through 12th grade and across academic and social areas.

What features will the learner find helpful and useful in this book? Focus questions are presented at the beginning of each chapter to assist the reader in understanding the critical content of the chapter. Case studies of persons with challenging behaviors, interactive activities, quizzes, and practice activities are embedded in several chapters. Sample blank forms pertaining to tasks in the FA process are contained within the final chapter for duplication and use by readers as resources within their own settings. Terminology is defined within the context of each chapter. At the end of each chapter, discussion questions are available to use for reflective thinking in either a written, online format, or in-person oral discussion.


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Instruction in Functional Assessment Copyright © 2014 by Marcie Desrochers and Moira Fallon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.