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20 Facts About Behavioral Assessments For Children With Autism

August 11, 2023

20 Facts About Behavioral Assessments For Children With Autism

Imagine you pick your child up from school, go through her bag and find a letter from her teacher. You see the phrases flash before your eyes: “disruptive in class,” “hit a classmate,” and “damaged school property.” 

Naturally, you are very concerned about your child’s behavior and wonder what you can do next. For many parents, a behavioral assessment is often the next step. But what exactly is a functional behavioral assessment, and what do you need to know about it? 

We have taken the mystery out of the scenario and compiled some essential facts

  1. Functional behavioral assessments occur when a medical professional, such as a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) during an Applied behavior analysis (ABA) session, observes and collects data and information about specific behaviors. The information collected can help the professionals better understand the behavior, what may be causing it, and what can be done. 
  1. A functional behavioral assessment can be an excellent first step when a child has been or starts exhibiting challenging behaviors. The behaviors can be due to different environmental factors or may be a part of that child’s particular personality traits.
Functional behavioral assessment
  1. When a child’s behaviors start affecting their education, overall well-being, safety, health, or other people’s safety, it might be a sign to get a behavioral assessment.
  1. There are many examples of behaviors that would necessitate a behavioral assessment and can include, but not be limited to:
  • throwing tantrums when triggered
  • hurting others and/or themselves by hitting
  • biting themselves or someone else
  • difficulty focusing and staying on task
  • showing verbal aggression towards another student or teacher
  • inappropriately interrupting class with random outbursts and behaviors
  • destroying property
  • disrupting class
Examples of behaviors
  1. If a parent is concerned about their child, they can talk to their child’s doctor about a behavioral assessment. Their doctor can administer different assessments, or they can refer the child and family to an outside service that can meet those needs and provide appropriate testing, assessment tools, and support.
  1. Data collection for functional behavioral assessment tests starts before the BCBA collects at a session by talking to parents to get a background and foundation of the child and their behaviors. Observe your child’s behavior to assist with this process. 
  1. The so-called ABCs of functional behavioral assessment is often used:
  • Antecedent: what happened before the behavior occurred? (Trigger)
  • Behavior: what is the behavior that is being observed?
  • Consequence: what happens when the behavior occurs? (reward/consequence
  1. It often helps to create an overview of the behavior and what can best help change negative behavior to a more positive, beneficial one. When a child is diagnosed with autism, certain behaviors can make it difficult to interact with others and in public; these behaviors would be assessed during the behavioral test. 
  1. For the sake of a behavioral assessment, it can be beneficial to pinpoint what may be causing the disruptive behaviors before they happen and replace them with a different, more productive behavior. 
  1. A functional behavioral assessment can assist in understanding the individual’s behavior. Medical professionals are better able to:
  • Identify different behavioral patterns
  • Figure out the purpose of certain behaviors and why people behave the way they do
  • Create and individualize different interventions for the individual and their needs

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  1. Through behavioral assessment and creating individualized goals to understand behavior better, medical professionals can figure out the antecedent or action leading up to the behavior, what the behavior is, and what consequences follow said behaviors, making it easier to predict behavior and act accordingly.
  1. The information gathered during a behavioral assessment helps provide a clearer understanding of behavior and a path to individualize treatment for each person. Medical professionals can identify the challenging behavior and offer an alternative positive behavior to replace the negative. 
  1. Professionals conducting behavioral assessments can create individualized goals that are:
  • measurable
  • able to be achieved
  • specific to the individual and circumstance
  • applicable
  • time-sensitive and measurable
  1. When children receive a diagnosis earlier, they can start treatment, behavioral assessment, and access to support sooner. This helps the child reach a higher potential at an earlier age.
  1. Early behavioral assessment helps in the following ways:
  • Pinpoint the causes and triggers of a person’s behavior.
  • Identify potential environmental factors that could cause the disruptive behaviors and keep those behaviors going.
  • Provide parents and others with support and knowledge about being proactive toward the person’s behavior before they start.
  • Help promote and provide a supportive environment for autistic individuals and their families and professionals who work with them.
Early behavioral assessment
  1. An individualized behavior support plan helps identify the individual needs while outlining the strategies and support that will best benefit challenging behavior and help change it to positive behavior. By using the individual’s preferences and strengths during a behavioral assessment, the plans can be even more specific to the individual and their particular needs, such as:
  • specific teaching methods
  • differing needs
  • strengths and areas of weakness
  • different reinforcement schedules
  • differing crisis management geared toward challenging behavior
  • positive reinforcement for positive behavior
  1. Functional behavioral assessments generally consider the information the autistic individual, parents, teachers, and other team members have shared about the individual. This is a more holistic approach because all aspects of a person’s life are considered when discussing their strengths and weaknesses.
  1. After the information has been collected from everyone during a behavioral assessment, planning can then be more complete. Due to the collaborative nature between the individual, parents, and everyone else, the goals, planning, and support can be more unified and give a clearer understanding of the overall process.
  1. Once there are clear goals and interventions through behavioral assessment, the medical professionals will continue to monitor and collect measurable data to keep track of growth and any possible regression of skills. With this information, the professionals can decide what direction to go, whether it has proven effective if adjustments need to be made, and ensure that the interventions and support are working effectively.
Medical professionals
  1. Individuals, parents, and practitioners involved in behavioral assessments make goals that enhance the overall quality of life and enable individuals to live independently and independently. Through functional behavioral assessment and interventions, challenging behaviors are met, and positive behaviors take over and are able to help the individual interact and respond in a necessary way.


Remembering that a functional behavioral assessment can be an excellent first step when a child has been or starts exhibiting challenging behaviors. It’s good for parents to know that children can be affected by different environmental factors or maybe a part of that child’s particular personality traits.

Suppose parents are concerned about their child’s behaviors, responses, and attitudes toward different things. In that case, talking to the child’s doctor is always recommended. If the doctor cannot answer the questions or concerns, they can point the family toward someone who can help them.

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