Training School-Based Consultants to Conduct Data-Based Functional Assessments

Saturday, May 13, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
V. L. Rodrigues, J. Staubitz, L. A. Weaver and P. Juárez, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN

For students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), untreated school-based behavior challenges can reduce a student’s access to the least restrictive environment, limiting a student’s learning and social opportunities. Functional behavioral assessment (FBA) is an evidence-based practice in which information is systematically gathered to determine the underlying function or purpose of a behavior to inform behavior intervention programming (Wong, et. al., 2014). Even when practitioners understand the importance of function-based interventions for challenging behaviors, their skill and confidence deficits may prevent them from incorporating valid data within the FBAs they are required to develop and implement.


Based on the work of Bassingthwaite, Casey, Wacker and colleagues, the current study was designed as a small-scale replication in which 8 school-based consultants were provided with behavioral skills training on two direct assessment techniques, preference assessments and descriptive behavior assessments, to improve the quality of their FBAs for students. The primary study objective was to measure the impact of behavioral skills training on trainees’ knowledge of the FBA process, procedural fidelity and confidence in completing both preference assessments and descriptive behavior assessments, and utilization of data for improving the effectiveness of behavior interventions.


Behavioral skills training using a combination of live and telepresence support was conducted across two consecutive years to teach trainees how to plan, conduct, and analyze preference assessments and descriptive behavior assessments and to synthesize assessment results into a valid and complete FBA. Trainees were administrated a questionnaire to assess their knowledge, confidence, and utilization of data to inform student FBAs. Direct observation data were gathered on trainees’ procedural fidelity for the assessments conducted.


Data from the first year of training on preference assessment reflected marked improvements in trainee knowledge and confidence in their skills, along with increased procedural fidelity. Average trainee scores on the preference assessment knowledge exam improved by 53.2 percentage points at follow-up. Average self-rating scores for preference assessments improved by 83.3 percentage points from pre-workshop to follow-up and average procedural fidelity scores increased 9.5 percentage points approximately two months after the initial training day. Initial data from the second year of training on descriptive behavior assessments indicate that average trainees’ exam scores on FBA and descriptive assessments improved by 9 percent from pre-workshop to post remote-training. Post training data will be included in the presentation, upon completion of the training on descriptive behavior assessments.


Given that many educators are tasked with completing FBAs, but often lack the specialized training to effectively do so, this study has many practical implications. Training in this area may result in increased efficiency of the assessment process and the ability to conduct data-based FBAs by district personnel rather than the often expensive and lengthy process of utilizing outside consultants. Ultimately, the goal from this research is to increase the effectiveness of behavior intervention plans utilized for students with ASD that are developed as a result of these assessments.