It's time to play detective!
So how exactly do you work out the function? Observe, observe, observe! We need to look at all sorts of things - not just what our student does that we'd prefer them not to. Look out for:
- where it happens
- the time of day
- who is around (other students, teachers etc.)
- how is the student travelling generally (tired, sick, sad, excited)
- what's happening in the environment (sounds, smells, movement, lights)
- what was the student doing immediately before
- what is the current response/reaction to the behaviour
I could keep going but I think you get the picture - we need to look at everything! Always remember that behaviour doesn't occur in a vacuum, so we need to consider everything happening in an environment so we can truly understand what is going on.
When you’re doing these observations it’s really up to you how ‘formal’ you get with the process. I’m a big believer in keeping it as simple as possible. If you’re able to keep these principles in mind while going about your day then that’s great. If you prefer to be able to document and record, that’s great too. You might like to look at using something like our ABC Chart (see below) to keep some notes over a short period of time.
Whichever way you’re collecting information you just need enough to be able to do some analysis. Are there any patterns to the behaviour? Eg. Does it happen at a certain time, when a certain person is around, or when a particular activity is occurring. It’s in these patterns that we find our function.
And truly, that’s the trickiest bit over. Once we understand the function we can go about implementing strategies, teaching replacement skills and ensuring our student has their needs met. If we don’t understand the function first it’s really hard to know which strategies are suitable and, what we see happen all the time, teachers are putting in a heap of work not realising they're accidentally reinforcing the behaviour.
Our next blog will look at some of our favourite strategies for reducing the likelihood of behaviours of concern. Note: they’re all pretty easy! In the meantime, get your detective hat on, download the ABC Chart by clicking the link below and get observing!