The Role of Functional Assessment in Treatment Planning

  • Deborah A. Napolitano
  • Vicki Madaus Knapp
  • Elizabeth Speares
  • David B. McAdam
  • Holly Brown
Part of the Autism and Child Psychopathology Series book series (ACPS)


Treatment planning to reduce challenging behavior (e.g., aggression and property destruction) can be complex and requires a prescriptive interprofessional team-based approach. As with other problems that interfere with an individual’s quality of life, such as health issues, the best course of treatment is one that accurately assesses the problem, leads to effective treatment for the issue of concern, and is empirically supported. This is especially important when treating individuals who display problem behavior which frequently interfere with their opportunities to learn and to live and be educated in less-restrictive settings (Matson, Mayville, & Laud, 2003). The utility of functional behavior assessments (FBAs) and functional analyses (FAs) in the identification of the specific function or purpose of challenging behavior has been embraced commonly by persons charged with supporting individuals who display challenging behavior (e.g., behavior analysts and educators). This is demonstrated by the laws requiring FBAs be conducted when individuals are struggling in educational environments (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, 2004) and the belief that the assessments conducted should result in the development of interventions that help preserve the child’s placement in the least restrictive appropriate educational setting. The utility of these assessments has been repeatedly demonstrated in the published literature (e.g., Derby et al., 1992; Iwata, Dorsey, Slifer, Bauman, & Richman, 1994; Kennedy & Souza, 1995; Kern, Childs, Dunlap, Clarke & Falk, 1994; McCord, Thompson, & Iwata, 2001; Ellingson, Miltenberger, Stricker, Galensky, & Garlinghouse, 2000). Several excellent reviews of this extensive literature have been conducted and have independently identified functional analysis and assessment as best practice (e.g., Carr, 1994; Hanley, Iwata, & McCord, 2003).


Intellectual Disability Challenging Behavior Behavior Analyst Differential Reinforcement Picture Exchange Communication System 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah A. Napolitano
    • 1
  • Vicki Madaus Knapp
    • 2
  • Elizabeth Speares
    • 3
  • David B. McAdam
    • 1
  • Holly Brown
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.University of Rochester School of MedicineRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Summit Educational ResourcesGetzvilleUSA
  3. 3.Hillside Children’s CenterRochesterUSA
  4. 4.University of Rochester School of NursingRochesterUSA

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