How do I Identify What my Child is trying to Communicate with Challenging Behavior?

How do I Identify What my Child is trying to Communicate with Challenging Behavior?

Identifying the function or functions that maintain problem behavior helps to answer the big question of “why” children engage in challenging behavior, but more importantly provides the information needed to reduce problem behavior and teach replacement or  socially appropriate behavior/skills that is specific to a child’s needs.

The process of learning about how and why children develop problem behaviours is called functional behavioural assessment (FBA). If we learn about the behaviours and know when and where they are likely to happen, we can plan positive strategies or intervention plans to teach new behaviours and skills. The goal is to teach children how to learn new skills, engage and manage their behaviours

FBA helps to:

  1. Identify the problem behavior, events or build-up to the problem behavior, and events that maintain problem behavior, as well as environmental factors that may be removed or altered to modify behavior.
  2. Create an intervention plan that gives the options for preventing problem behavior, responding to problem and desired behaviors, and teaching replacement and appropriate behaviors that serve the same function as problem behavior.
  3. Provides implementation support to parents, evaluates the progress of implementation and effectiveness of the plan based on information collected and makes modifications to the plan according to the needs of the child

Who Does an FBA?

FBA as a process is carried out by a team of individuals who have direct experience with the child. It could be teachers, parents, special educators) but mainly psychologist and behavior analyst.

When Should an FBA be Done?

It should be done whenever a problem behavior is difficult to understand, or a behavior intervention plan is needed to teach a replacement behavior or learn new skills.

Although the general FBA problem-solving process is basically the same across problem types, the intensity and complexity of each child’s FBA activities will vary; meaning not all problem behaviors and situations will require the same level of activity.


  1. Behavior must be considered within the context in which it is observed
  2. Intensity of behavior intervention plans must be matched to intensity of problem behavior.
  3. Intervention decisions must be data based
  4. Continuous review and feedback on the implementation of behavior intervention plans.