Functional Assessment

"The only journey is the journey within."
Rainer Maria Rilke

What is a Functional Assessment?

A functional assessment is the process of determining the cause or function of a particular behavior, before an intervention strategy is developed.

Why is it important to do a Functional Assessment?

The primary purpose of doing a functional assessment is to aid in developing an effective treatment plan, which will allow least restrictive intervention with the maximum benefits.

A secondary purpose in doing a functional assessment is to eliminate the wasting of time spent on ineffective methods, thereby aiding the consumer more quickly.

What are the components of a Functional Assessment?

A key component of the functional assessment is interviewing. During the interviewing, information is gathered from people who know the consumer best. Those to be interviewed would include parents, teachers, daycare providers, bus drivers, and other family members. Interviews provide an informal means of gathering information, however should not be used as the sole assessment tool.

Another component to the assessment is observation. It is a much more reliable method of doing an accurate assessment, as the person administering the assessment observes the consumer in his or her natural environment. The observation is done in a non-obtrusive manner, creating as few changes to routine as possible. By doing so, both the antecedents and the consequences of the behavior problem can be observed.

Who is qualified to do a Functional Assessment?

The assessment should be done by a professional who is trained and well acquainted with observing and measuring behavior. Rating scales can be used quickly by a trained staff person, thereby decreasing the amount of observation and interview time needed to complete the assessment.