In the last post we discussed why behaviors happen (the functions of behavior) and why it’s necessary to determine the function. In this post, we will go through some steps to help determine the function.

Remember, we want to know the function so we can find a behavior we would rather have the person perform instead. In order for this to work, the behaviors must serve the same purpose.

Example- If a child screams and is given juice we can replace the screaming with asking for the juice. Asking for juice serves the same function as screaming for the juice (the child gets the juice).

Determining the function of the behavior is therefore very important. For instance, in the example above where the child is screaming and we want him to instead ask for the juice we have to remember this only works if the reason (function) of the behavior is the same. Sometimes we guess incorrectly. In this example, we understandably guessed the child was screaming to get the juice but… If they were actually screaming to get their mother’s attention, our intervention of having them ask for juice would not work. In this case, we would have to adjust our intervention to get at the correct function. Now we may have him say “Hey Mom.” So that he gets the attention that he is seeking.

Here are some general questions to ask ourselves that can help determine the function:

Try some of these out at home and see if you can determine the function of a behavior and pick a replacement behavior that will work better for your family.

*Remember if your child is having severe behavior problems or is engaging in dangerous behaviors it is best to consult a professional.

Chris C. Shaw Jr. M.A., BCBA, LBA – National Speech/Language Therapy Center