The goal of Functional Behavior Assessments is to teach, not punish.

Functional Behavior Assessments (FBAs) are tools used to identify the reasons behind a child's poor behavior. In the case of autistic children, Functional Behavior Assessments help to determine whether a child's conduct is a result of his disorder or if it stems from a lack of understanding the proper way to make the child’s needs known. Autistic students need to be taught how to behave appropriately, and kindergarten is a wonderful place to begin that training.

Step One – Interviews

The first stage in Functional Behavior Assessments is to conduct an interview with anyone who has a strong relation with the child. This includes parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, friends, neighbors, babysitters and to a lesser degree, classmates. While these interviews are inconclusive on their own, they do give insights into observed behaviors and commonalities within the testimonies of those interviewed.

Step Two – Direct Observation

Once the assessors have collected the interview data, they will have a better idea of signals or patterns of behavior that may be encountered. In direct observation, a kindergartner is watched during different intervals throughout the day, both at home and in the classroom. The observer keeps a running log of events that occur before and after a child's disruptive behavior in order to determine which actions or reactions are contributing to the problem.

Step Three – Manipulating the Environment

In the final step of the assessment, the child is subjected to a variety of changes in the environment, as well as to the responses of others after outbursts. For example, the teacher may move the child from the back of the room to the front or from a centralized location to a more solitary one. If the initial response to the behavior was to single the child out, the teacher might try ignoring the child. Once again, the data is recorded to establish which tactics made a positive difference and which ones evoked a negative response.

Step Four – Creating a Behavior Plan

Kindergartners with behavior problems, specifically those with autism or other disabilities, require a consistent, individualized plan that is implemented over a long period of time. It is imperative that the same plan be carried out both at home and in the classroom. Using the results from the Functional Behavior Assessment, the parents and teacher can collaborate to create a behavior strategy for the child. An effective behavior plan is clearly defined and includes the interventions of both punishment and positive reinforcement. As the plan is carried out, the teacher or parent may notice and suggest areas of modification to better aid the child in accomplishing the new goals.