Note: Functional analyses must be individualized for specific organizations. The following prepopulated defaults should be altered where necessary to meet the organizations needs.
This condition determines whether the behavior is maintained by attention from others (i.e., social positive reinforcement). The individual should be seated and may be given a medium-preference leisure item with which to interact. Each time the behavior occurs, the individual should receive 3-5s of attention for the behavior. The content of these attention deliveries typically involve social disapproval (e.g., "Please don't do that."). However, the type and specific content of attention (positive or negative) used should match what the assessing practitioner believes occurs in the individual’s “natural" environment (perhaps from a prior descriptive assessment), as different forms of contingent attention–both verbal and physical–have been found to differentially affect problem behavior.
The purpose of this condition is to determine whether the behavior is maintained by escape from or avoidance of instructional or other demands (i.e., social negative reinforcement). The practitioner should provide a task (e.g., academic, habilitative) that has been demonstrated as at least moderately difficult for the individual. When the problem behavior occurs, give the individual a 20- to 30-s break before resuming instruction. Always praise task compliance. Consider carefully the nature of the demands presented in this condition. The task demands should be similar to those delivered in the “natural" environment in terms of the type of task, rate of presentation of tasks, and level of task difficulty. This information is often obtained during informant and descriptive assessment.
The purpose of this condition is to determine whether the behavior is maintained by access to preferred tangible items (e.g., toys, leisure materials). Before the session begins, give the individual brief, free access to a preferred item. At the beginning of the session, remove the item and give it back for 20-30 s if the problem behavior occurs. Providing the individual with any additional attention (e.g., saying "You can have your toy back," providing eye contact) is contraindicated when delivering the item, as this may confound the outcomes of the functional analysis when problem behavior is attention-maintained. This condition should only be conducted when there is strong evidence from prior functional assessment to indicate that access to preferred items may serve a likely maintaining function.
The purpose of this condition is to determine whether the behavior is maintained by automatic reinforcement (i.e., sensory reinforcement or self-stimulation). It is generally recommended that this condition be included in a functional analysis whenever feasible, as its omission may lead to erroneous conclusions about the social nature of the behavioral function. In an alone condition session, the individual is typically left alone for the duration of the session. However, if this is not practically feasible, the practitioner can be present, but should not interact with the individual during the session. In addition, there should be little stimulation in the environment (e.g., no radio, television, or other tangible items). High rates of behavior in this condition may be indicative of an automatic reinforcement function.
The purpose of the control condition is to provide an "ideal" environment for the individual so that problem behavior should not occur. Therefore, the environment should be enriched with preferred items. The individual should also be given frequent attention on a reasonable schedule (usually 3-5 s of attention every 30 s and in response to appropriate initiations) and no demands should be presented. The purpose of this condition is to reduce the "motivation" to engage in problem behavior by making freely available all of the potential reinforcers provided contingently in the other test conditions. The control condition should generally produce few problem behaviors; therefore, data from each test condition should be compared with data from this condition to determine whether reinforcement has occurred.
Although the other above conditions cover the majority of typically-identified maintaining environmental variables for problem behavior, it may sometimes be necessary to customize test conditions to assess for an idiosyncratic function. When developing a customized test condition, ensure that the relevant antecedent conditions are present (e.g., unpleasant noise, an adult who can terminate the noise) and that the hypothesized reinforcer (e.g., termination of noise) is delivered contingent on each problem behavior.