August 2021 - Hidden Talents ABA

Summer Sun Safety Month

Summer Sun Safety Month reminds us that the skin is the body’s largest organ. It is important to take the correct precautions when going out into the sun because of the damage ultraviolet radiation exposure can do to your skin.

Protect your skin from the sun by:

  • Staying in the shade as much as possible
  • Wearing full brim hats
  • Regularly applying broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB
Summer Sun Safety Month Poster for August

Three Methods to Learn Wisdom

By three methods we may learn wisdom:
First, by reflection, which is noblest;
Second, by imitation, which is easiest;
and third by experience which is the bitterest.


A view of the ocean with a quote about three methods.

From our friends at

Behavior Support Plan

A behavior support plan (BSP) identifies positive skills and strategies that can help reduce problem behaviors, based on the findings of a functional behavior assessment. In this article, you’ll learn more about how behavior support plans are used to manage challenging behaviors and replace them with appropriate ones.

What Is a Behavior Support Plan?

A behavior support plan (BSP) is a formal written guide intended for teachers, parents, and other individuals working with a child who displays a problem behavior. The plan outlines the strategies that can be used to teach the child new, positive ways to meet their needs in the classroom and at home. 

A BSP has two goals: to reduce or stop unwanted behaviors and to increase appropriate behaviors. In order for a BSP to be effective, the alternative behavior must serve the same function as the problem one, but it must be easier to do, more efficient, and socially acceptable. 

A behavior support plan relies on the information gathered through functional behavior assessment (FBA) to propose new skills, changes in the child’s environment, and reinforcements that need to be implemented in order to reduce the misbehavior. It can include measures such as creating an alternative schedule, allowing early entry to class or activity, or sitting near the teacher, for example. 

Parts of a behavior support plan

Behavior support plans typically consist of the following parts:

  • Definition of the challenging behavior
  • Interventions needed to replace and reduce the unwanted behavior
  • Plan for teaching and reinforcing new skills
  • Evaluation plan

Definition of the challenging behavior

The definition of the challenging behavior summarizes the findings of the functional behavior assessment. The behavior is described using clear language and the plan lists its antecedents and consequences, in other words, what typically occurs before and after the disruptive behavior.

This part of the plan also includes a hypothesis on why the child engages in the problem behavior and what is its function. Understanding the reasons behind the unwanted behavior will allow for developing adequate strategies to minimize or replace those behaviors.

Interventions needed to reduce and replace unwanted behaviors

An intervention plan indicates the skills or behaviors that should be taught to the child or the changes that can be done in the child’s environment, activities, or personal support to replace the negative behavior. The intervention plan is based on the information gathered during the functional behavior assessment stage.

Plan for teaching and reinforcing new skills

This section of a behavior support plan documents the ways an intervention and individualized support will be implemented within a child’s daily routines in school and at home. The plan needs to be appropriately tailored to the child’s individual needs and abilities. In addition, it must set reasonable and realistic measurements for success.

Evaluation plan

An evaluation plan includes: 

  • A short-term goal based on the child’s current performance
  • A long-term goal that focuses on increasing desired behavior
  • Specific procedures that will be used to evaluate progress
  • Data that will be collected to verify whether the plan was implemented correctly and whether it is having an impact on the child’s behavior
  • A specific date for progress review. 

Both short-term and long-term goals need to be written in specific, measurable terms and indicate how the team will know when the child reaches the goal. 

Prevention strategies

Prevention strategies are designed to reduce the likelihood of problem behavior occurring in the future. After implementing these strategies, the child will no longer feel the need to engage in the problem behavior to have his or her needs met. 

Replacement skills

Replacement skills are appropriate behaviors that serve the same function as the challenging behavior and can replace them. For example, a child that reacts negatively to loud noises can learn a more appropriate way to respond, such as going to a safe place or using noise-canceling headphones.

The purpose of replacement skills is to make the behavior of concern ineffective, so that the new behavior becomes a more efficient way to meet the child’s needs. A behavior support plan should explain in detail how the team is going to teach this replacement behavior.

Consequence strategies

Consequence strategies are guidelines on how adults working with the child are expected to respond to problem behaviors. These strategies include positive reinforcement and minimizing reinforcement for problematic behavior.

Positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a reward for the child’s use of new skills or appropriate behavior. Positive behavior should be reinforced immediately and consistently. What’s more, it needs to serve the same function as the negative behavior. 

Minimizing reinforcement for problematic behavior

In addition to positive reinforcement, the response to problem behavior includes: 

  • Redirecting the child to the alternative behavior, for example, immediately reminding the child what would be considered a positive behavior in the given situation.
  • Extinction of the problem behavior, that is, not allowing the behavior to “pay off” for the child. In this case, the teacher should minimize the attention and limit any verbal interactions when the child engages in challenging behavior. Extinction of the interfering behavior should always be combined with positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviors.

Long term strategies

This section of the behavior support plan indicates the long-term goals that will assist the child and family in meeting behavior targets. It also describes the ways to reach those goals.

A behavior support plan consists of multiple steps. Read on to find out what they are. 

Steps of a Behavior Support Plan

The behavior support process involves the following steps:

  • Define the interfering behavior that needs to be reduced or replaced
  • Outline the antecedent, consequence, and function for the problem behavior 
  • Explain possible causes of the behavior and provide reasoning to justify it
  • Develop a plan that suggests actions that will prevent the unwanted behavior
  • Identify the skills that need to be taught to replace the behavior 
  • Identify short-term and long-term goals for a new behavior or behavior modifications 
  • Create an intervention procedure to achieve these goals
  • Implement the plan consistently across different settings and environments (school, home)
  • Monitor and evaluate the progress of the plan and development of new, positive skills.

Below, we explain the importance of functional behavior assessment in creating an effective behavior support plan. 

Functional Behavior Assessment

The first step in creating a behavior support plan is a functional behavior assessment. 

A functional behavior assessment (FBA) is a process of identifying the behavior that interferes with a child’s ability to learn. It is typically used when habitual school interventions are not effective in controlling the behavior. The FBA is based on the belief that problematic behavior serves a specific purpose. An FBA attempts to look beyond labeling an unwanted behavior as simply being bad and determine what functions that behavior may be serving. 

The main reason for conducting a functional behavior assessment is to understand the relationship between the inappropriate behavior and the environment in order to determine what is causing the challenge. Understanding why a child behaves in a certain way is the starting point for developing suitable strategies for improvement.

An FBA results in a theory about the functions that the behavior serves and a targeted intervention plan—a behavior support plan—for an alternative behavior that will not interfere with the child’s education. The plan focuses on positive outcomes that can help build a better relationship between the child, the teacher, and the family.

A functional behavior assessment can be conducted by a licensed behavioral specialist, a school psychologist, or a teacher. The school counselor and other staff who work with the child may also be involved in the process. Finally, as a parent, you will have a crucial role in advocating for a fair FBA for your child and creating a behavior support plan.

Keep reading to learn more about building a behavior support team. 

Building a Behavior Support Team

A behavior plan is not written by only one person or an expert. To be effective, the plan needs to be developed by a team of individuals who work together to find strategies that will help replace negative behavior with a positive one. This cooperation will allow the team members to focus on the task, establish accountability for completing the plan, and ensure communication and consistent implementation of the interventions. 

The behavior support team can include anyone who is involved in the child’s life. In addition to the child’s parents and educators, it may also involve family members, friends, therapists, and other instructional or administrative personnel. Team members will collaborate in different ways to develop and implement a suitable behavior support plan.

A collaborative approach is one of the key features of positive behavior support for children with problem behaviors and their families. It is particularly important for children whose challenging behaviors occur in multiple settings, for example, at home, at school, during therapy visits, and so on.

Parents’ role in developing and implementing a BSP

As a parent, you should be involved in each step of developing a behavior support plan for your child. In order for the plan to be effective, it is necessary to monitor the child’s behavior not only at school but also at home. At the same time, the school should keep you updated on your child’s progress and provide you with the necessary tools to reinforce the BSP at home.

Person-Centered Planning

An essential part of ensuring an effective behavior support process is to set up a person-centered plan. As mentioned above, the plan is written by a team consisting of family, teachers, caregivers, and other community members who are brought together to discuss their goals for the child. It is crucial that the team’s planning process is focused on the child’s behavior goals.

Besides, the child should be involved in the planning process as much as possible. He or she may be able to offer their own views on the problem and suggest what can be done to solve it. This process not only helps the child to feel included, but it is also a good way to make sure the strategies developed are specific to their needs.

Another crucial success factor of a behavior support plan is appropriate monitoring. Here’s why. 

Monitoring Behavior Support Plans

A behavior support plan is an active document that needs to be consulted and reviewed on a regular basis in order to be effective. Monitoring a BSP is a twofold process that includes: 

  • Monitoring changes in problem behavior, and
  • Monitoring the achievement of new skills and lifestyle outcomes.

The key to successful monitoring is frequent collection of data that describes when, where, and who implements the plan but also to how the plan is being implemented and whether or not the same intervention steps are followed each time. Direct and indirect measurements, such as rating scales and check sheets, should be done in order to:

  • Document whether the plan is implemented with consistency
  • Whether the plan is effective in achieving the identified goals
  • Whether the replacement skills are maintained over time, and
  • Whether the new skills can be applied in a variety of contexts or settings. 

The behavior support team should periodically review the collected data to ensure good communication, make any adjustments if needed, as well as to review progress in the context of the long-term vision for the child’s development.

Data collection for the purpose of monitoring progress is simpler and less extensive than it was in the functional behavior assessment phase. Once the BSP is in place, the data only needs to indicate whether the behavior is staying the same or changing. The team has to track the frequency, duration, and intensity of the behavior. In addition to collecting the data regularly, it is necessary to analyze the information and verify whether there is any improvement in the child’s behavior.

In the next section, we provide useful tips for writing and implementing behavior support plans.

Tips for Behavior Support Plans

Replacing a challenging behavior

  • When your child displays unwanted behavior, you should always first rule out health issues such as acute illness, pain, or discomfort before proceeding with functional behavior assessment and creating a behavior support plan.
  • Keep in mind that all challenging behaviors serve a specific purpose, function, or fulfill unmet needs.
  • The meaning and purpose of behavior may sometimes be difficult to determine. In some cases, it will take lots of time and patience before the team can gain a good understanding of the behavior.
  • The purpose of a behavior support plan is not to show how the child should change his or her behavior, but to outline the steps that will be taken by the members of the team to modify the environment and teach the child new skills. 
  • It is important to address the interfering behavior immediately as it happens so that the child can successfully change the habit.

When a BSP isn’t working

  • Make sure the chosen interventions provide an alternative way to accomplish the function of the problematic behavior. 
  • If the proposed plan is not working and the behavior doesn’t improve, there may have been a misunderstanding of the reason or function behind the targeted behavior. In this case, the implemented strategies won’t be effective. 
  • Some behaviors have been present for a long time and changing them may take a lot of reinforcement and encouragement.
  • If a behavior support plan is not working, the team should document the interventions that are ineffective and look for other alternatives.

Writing an effective BSP

  • Behavior support plans should be kept as simple as possible. Simple plans are easier to implement, evaluate, and are often the most effective.
  • The interventions in the plan should include enough detail so that the team members are able to understand and implement the proposed strategies.
  • It is better to implement just a few carefully selected interventions with confidence than to list many strategies that will not be used consistently.
  • It is better to start slow and gradually build on success than to set unreasonable expectations.
  • Behavior support plans must be person-centered and specific to each child. In other words, each behavior support plan must be unique. What works for one child won’t necessarily work for another.

Reviewing the plan

  • A behavior support plan should be reviewed and updated regularly, approximately every six weeks. As your child grows, his or her behavior will change and it will be necessary to make adjustments to the plan to target new problem behaviors.
  • Decide the review date for a BSP at the time of writing the plan. It can be reviewed sooner if needed, but deadlines will increase the chances of the plan being effective.
  • If there’s new information or if the child needs a change, the plan should be adjusted as needed.
  • If the child changes environments, new information should be gathered to determine if and how the behavior was affected, and whether the team should consider new strategies.
  • Failure to update the BSP on a regular basis, especially when it comes to rewards and reinforcements for appropriate behavior, could cause the child to relapse into unwanted behavior.

Social Skills Worksheets for Autism

Social skills are the ability to behave in an acceptable way in social situations, for example, knowing how to interpret body language, emotional cues, and facial expressions. However, even basic social interactions are often challenging for children with autism. Social skills worksheets are a useful tool that can help autistic children become more aware of themselves and the people around them. Keep on reading to find out more about the different types of social skills worksheets and how they may be helpful for your child with autism. 

Why Are Worksheets Helpful for People with Autism?

Social skills are the skills used to communicate and interact with others. They can be either verbal (language) or nonverbal (facial expressions, body language).

Social skills and autism

One of the main signs of autism is a lack or delay in social skills. For example, an autistic child might take another child’s toy without asking for permission, refuse to wait for a turn, or avoid making eye contact. Failure to display expected behavior around other children makes it hard to interact and make friends.

However, children with autism need to learn the same social skills as their neurotypical peers. These skills are essential for getting along with others, developing confidence, and becoming more independent. Teaching social skills should, therefore, be an essential part of your child’s daily activities both at home and at school. 

There is a wide range of social skills to work on with autistic children, such as: 

  • Making eye contact
  • Taking turns
  • Helping others
  • Respecting personal space
  • Sharing toys and materials
  • Asking for help
  • Using appropriate voice tone and volume
  • Following directions
  • Asking permission
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Disagreeing politely and respectfully
  • Respecting the opinions of others
  • Recognizing the difference between expected and unwanted behaviors
  • Cooperating with others and working together
  • Recognizing body language 
  • Understanding nonverbal cues
  • Recognizing feelings in oneself and others.

What are social skills worksheets?

Social skills worksheets are resources designed to teach children with autism and other disabilities how to relate to other people. Since many children on the autism spectrum are visual learners, social skills worksheets are an effective way to learn skills like: 

  • Appropriate social behaviors
  • Maintaining healthy relationships
  • Understanding social nuances
  • Adjusting to any given situation
  • Learning emotional literacy
  • Understanding their own and others’ feelings
  • Using manners
  • Listening to others
  • Using polite words
  • Understanding how their actions may impact other people. 

Social skills worksheets can be used by everyone from preschoolers to primary school children and teenagers.

Below, we take a look at the wide range of social skills worksheets available for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. 

Social Skills Worksheets for People with Autism

Different types of worksheets can help your child build a strong foundation for acquiring social skills, for example: 

  • Worksheets for emotional health
  • Worksheets for identifying objects
  • Worksheets for controlling anger
  • Worksheets for communication.

Worksheets for emotional health

Learning to recognize and manage feelings is an important part of social development in children. Nevertheless, children with autism often find mastering this skill very challenging. Worksheets for emotional health will help your child become more aware of their own and others’ emotions and allow them to communicate more effectively.

Emotional Cues Worksheet—

This emotional health worksheet is specifically designed to help children with autism understand body language. Your child needs to determine what emotion various facial expressions represent and what gestures and tone of voice should accompany them. 

Body and Voice Language Worksheet—

This worksheet allows autistic children to learn how to communicate their emotions through facial expressions and gestures, without using their voice.

Empathy Skills Builder: Predicting Emotion—Talking Tree Books

This empathy skill building package consists of three different worksheets. Your child is asked to choose among several options, such as “worried”, “angry”, confused”, and “left out”, to describe how the character in the picture is feeling. The worksheets are suitable for grades 1-4.

Worksheets for identifying objects

Worksheets for identifying objects are used to teach children to recognize common objects and increase their visual memory, in addition to helping them practice reasoning and pre-reading skills.

Where Does It Belong?—

To complete this worksheet, your child will need to use reasoning skills in order to determine where an object belongs. As the child matches each object with the right location, he or she is also learning to recognize the words written under the pictures.

Identifying Common Objects Cards—Teachers Pay Teachers

These cards prompt your child to identify common objects by choosing the correct alternative among several options. The objects were chosen for their short names that are easy to say, such as “dog”, “ball”, or “car”, so that your child can also work on their pronunciation. The set of cards with 30 objects can be purchased for $2.50.

Circle & Identify Object Worksheet—Auti SPARK

This series of sorting worksheets is designed to help your child improve observation skills by identifying and circling the picture of one or more objects. Registered users can download the worksheets for free.

Worksheets for controlling anger

Anger management worksheets are useful tools that can assist kids and teens in developing coping skills and teach them appropriate ways to deal with anger. With the help of worksheets for controlling anger, your child will learn how to:

  • Analyze anger issues
  • Identify anger triggers
  • Improve problem-solving skills
  • Plan coping strategies.

There are several different types of anger worksheets to choose from:

  • Anger triggers worksheets. These sheets help identify anger triggers and provide ideas on how to deal with them. 
  • Anger signs worksheets. They help recognize facial expressions that show anger.
  • Expressing anger worksheets. These worksheets allow children to identify, label, and express different feelings.
  • Problem-solving worksheets. This resource is used when anger arises from the inability to solve a problem.

Anger Management Skills Cards—Therapist Aid

This set of 12 cards will help your child learn how to control their anger. Each card has a picture of a healthy anger management technique. Worksheets are free to download and members can also print customizable sheets. 

Autism Anger Management Problem Solving Wheels—

These worksheets are designed in the form of a wheel with anger management alternatives. The sheets will help your child choose appropriate behaviors when they are angry, for example, “walk away and let it go”, “talk it through”, “apologize”, and more. 

Anger Signs Worksheets—Very Special Tales

This set of worksheets will teach your child to recognize and describe common anger signs like contracting and tightening lips, getting red in the face, and speaking loudly.

Worksheets for communication

Children on the autism spectrum disorder typically face communication difficulties that can lead to social challenges. For example, they may become frustrated when they are unable to request what they need. These worksheets can help improve your child’s communication and social skills.

Social Communication for Autism—Teachers Pay Teachers

This set of 29 communication worksheets for autistic children covers everything from improving conversation skills to learning how to show empathy and make friends. The complete set can be downloaded for $75. 

Clothes and Dressing Communication Cards—Teachers Pay Teachers

This 160-page packet is an essential visual communication tool for children with autism from kindergarten to 12th grade. It includes examples of clothing-related requests and actions through more than 300 visual icon cards and 14 clothing categories. The packet can be downloaded for $4. 

Communication Worksheets for Children With Autism—Autism Love to Know

This resource offers a wide range of free downloadable worksheets that will help your child communicate more effectively. Your child is asked to guess what the person in the picture wants to communicate and then suggest how to use these phrases in daily life. The website also provides many other types of worksheets as well as tips for learning social skills for children who are auditory rather than visual learners. 

In addition to worksheets, expert intervention and therapy sessions can help your child with autism improve their social skills. Read on to find out more. 

How Can Hidden Talents ABA Help?

Hidden Talents ABA provides treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder from birth to age 12. We focus on enhancing your child’s ability to understand how their behavior affects those around them and improving their social skills.

Currently the most effective form of autism treatment, applied behavior analysis (ABA) is an evidence-based approach that focuses on changing unwanted behaviors in autistic children while reinforcing desirable ones. 

ABA therapy can help your child to build and strengthen social skills, for example:

  • Improve communication skills 
  • Increase attention, focus, and memory
  • Follow directions and instructions
  • Understand facial expressions and body language
  • Initiate conversations
  • Respond to questions
  • Reduce problematic behaviors such as aggressivness and meltdowns.

ABA therapy uses positive reinforcement in the form of rewards and incentives. When a desirable behavior is rewarded by a special treat or activity, the child is more likely to repeat the action. Over time, this method will encourage positive behavioral changes in children with autism spectrum disorder.

For more information on Hidden Talents ABA services, call us at 404-487-6005 or send us an email at

Functional Behavior Assessment

Functional behavior assessment (FBA) is used to determine the cause of a child’s challenging behavior at school and develop a plan for improvement. 

In this article, we take a closer look at the functional behavior assessment process and methods used to identify and reduce problematic behaviors.

What Is a Functional Behavior Assessment? 

A functional behavior assessment (FBA) is a process of identifying the behavior that interferes with a child’s educational progress and impacts their ability to learn. For example, a child may refuse to work on difficult tasks, respond angrily, or act in an inappropriate way to gain attention. An FBA is used when typical school interventions are not effective in controlling the behavior

This type of assessment is based on the belief that problematic behavior serves a specific purpose. An FBA attempts to look beyond labeling an unwanted behavior as simply being “bad” and determine what functions that behavior may be serving. Understanding why a child behaves a certain way is the starting point for developing strategies for improvement. 

A functional behavior assessment is typically used in a classroom setting, but it can also be applied at home if this is where your child is receiving mental health services. An FBA usually takes about 30 days to complete and requires parental consent.

What is the purpose of an FBA?

The purpose of the functional behavior assessment is to: 

  • Designate the problematic behavior
  • Identify the factors that support the behavior
  • Determine the purpose of the behavior. 

An FBA results in making a hypothesis about the functions that the behavior serves and creating a targeted intervention plan for an alternative behavior that will not interfere with the child’s education. The plan focuses on positive outcomes that can help build a better relationship between the child, the teacher, and the family.

Who conducts an FBA?

A functional behavior assessment is typically conducted by a licensed behavioral specialist or school psychologist, although it can also be done by a teacher. The school counselor and other staff who work with the child may also be involved in the process. Finally, as a parent, you will have an essential role in advocating for a fair and thorough FBA for your child.

Why Would an FBA Need to Be Done?

The main reason for conducting a functional behavior assessment is to understand the relationship between the inappropriate behavior and the environment in order to determine what is causing the challenge.

A functional behavior assessment can: 

  • Identify interventions to reduce the undesirable behavior
  • Propose alternative behaviors to replace the inappropriate ones
  • Determine the appropriate placements and services.

The assessment can be part of the Individual Learning Plan (ILP), the Student Assistance Team (SAT) process, and serve as confirmation of a disability.

Most children who are in special education receive behavior programming in school—typically referred to as a positive behavior support plan or behavior intervention plan—to reduce and replace unwanted behaviors. These plans are always based on functional behavior assessments.

However, not all children with a behavior challenge will be able to get an FBA. Read on to find out who is eligible.

Who Has the Right to an FBA? 

A functional behavior assessment can be used both for students in special education and regular education students. 

An FBA is conducted in the following situations: 

  • As an essential part of a school evaluation for special education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools to use functional behavior assessments when dealing with challenging behavior in children with special needs. When an FBA is conducted for a child classified as a special education student, it is a function of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) committee.
  • When there are behavior concerns in children who have an IEP or a 504 plan. Schools are required by law to do a functional behavior assessment whenever not doing so would deny children a free public education.
  • In school discipline situations. Federal law requires an FBA in some cases when a student is disciplined or removed from school.
  • Evaluate risk for students with serious behavior issues. There are no laws requiring a school to complete a functional behavior assessment of regular education students.

Keep reading for more details about the steps involved in a functional behavior assessment.

Steps of an FBA

A functional behavior assessment consists of four different steps:

  • Define the challenging behavior
  • Gather and analyze information
  • Find out the reason for the behavior
  • Make a plan to encourage positive behavior.

Define the challenging behavior

A functional behavior assessment starts by defining the challenging behavior. The behavior must be described in a specific and objective way. For example, it should specify that the child kicks, hits, and throws objects instead of simply stating that the child is aggressive. Furthermore, only fact-based observations such as “the child places his head on his desk” can be used and not assumptions of the child’s feelings like “the child is not interested in the lesson.” 

Gather and analyze information

The second step of an FBA is information gathering. During this stage, the professional tries to answer questions such as:

  • When does the behavior occur?
  • Where does the behavior occur? 
  • In what circumstances does the behavior not occur?
  • How often does the behavior occur?
  • Who is around when it occurs (peers, adults)?
  • What triggers the behavior?
  • What happens after the behavior occurs?
  • What more acceptable behavior can be used as an alternative?

Other useful information includes:

  • The instructions that were provided at the time behavior occurred
  • Academic and behavioral expectations for the child
  • Recent changes in the child’s circumstances in school or at home
  • Any medical and other related issues.

It is also necessary to provide a full history of the interventions that have been implemented previously and indicate whether they were successful or not.

Tools used to gather information

The professional who conducts the FBA may use a number of different methods to gather the necessary information, for example: 

  • Observation
  • Interviews
  • Questionnaires 
  • Reviewing the student’s records

An ABC chart is another tool that is frequently used in this step of the assessment. It helps collect data about the antecedent (what happens before the behavior), the behavior itself, and the consequence (what happens after the behavior). Both the teacher and the child can complete this chart. 

Other information gathering tools include frequency and duration charts which track how often the behavior occurs, how long it lasts, and where its intensity can be placed on a scale of 1-10.

Find out the reason for the behavior

Using the information collected, the team of professionals will outline the hypothesis on what may be causing the behavior, what function it serves, and what the child is trying to communicate through that particular behavior. They will create a detailed report which includes:

  • A description of the procedures used
  • Information and data gathered
  • Comprehensive recommendations.

Make a plan to encourage positive behavior 

Once the team has a sufficient understanding of the reason behind the child’s behavior, it will propose a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) to reduce and replace it with more appropriate behavior. An FBA is also commonly used to create applied behavior analysis (ABA) autism treatment plans.

A behavior intervention plan typically includes the following components: 

  • Changes needed to reduce or eliminate problematic behaviors, for example, modifications in the physical environment, the way the information is presented, or the consequences of the behavior
  • Strategies for replacing the challenging behaviors with appropriate ones that serve the same function for the child (replacement behaviors)
  • Skills training needed in order to introduce the appropriate behaviors
  • Supporting the child when it comes to using appropriate behaviors.

The plan must specify the necessary behavior modifications and new skills. Furthermore, the proposed strategy needs to have a clear focus and name a person who will be in charge of carrying out the recommended steps. As the team obtains new information, it will often adjust the plan along the way. 

The functional behavior assessment should be documented in your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). In addition, the agreed-upon recommendations should be incorporated into the child’s goal work.

Below, read more about the types of functional behavior assessment processes. 

Direct vs Indirect FBA

There are two distinct types of FBA processes: direct and indirect functional behavior assessments. 

Direct FBA

The direct FBA is a comprehensive assessment process used to identify and replace severe, persisting, and frequent behaviors. This process is also appropriate when critical decisions are being made to verify a disability, make placement decisions, or choose intensive or intrusive intervention methods.

As part of the assessment, a professional directly and unobtrusively observes the child’s challenging behavior in their natural environment on several different occasions. The professional must record the circumstances surrounding the behavior, such as frequency and duration, the time of day, location, activities, and people present.

Certain interfering behaviors require a more thorough evaluation. In some cases, a functional analysis (FA) is done to test the possible functions of unwanted behaviors. This method clearly identifies functional relationships by verifying them in an experimental setting. 


A direct observational assessment is an objective means of gathering information that may help support indirect assessment findings. 

Indirect FBA

The Indirect FBA is used for behaviors that are less severe and occur infrequently, or as part of early intervention using the SAT process. Because it is less time consuming, the indirect assessment is done in urgent situations that need immediate action and where there is no time for a more detailed assessment process. 

During an indirect functional assessment, information about the challenging behavior is gathered from persons who are closest to the child, such as parents, teachers, and service providers. 

The indirect approach is more informal, uses simple language, and is less technical than the direct one. It relies on using tools such as rating scales, questionnaires, interviews, and discussions to help identify the target behavior, the circumstances that support the behavior, and the function of the behavior. 

Based on the collected information and other data, such as disciplinary referrals and attendance records, the team will develop a hypothesis and formulate a detailed intervention plan. The team will also determine whether there is a need for a more comprehensive direct FBA.

A functional behavior assessment can be used to detect or confirm a disability. Here’s why this is important. 

FBAs Can Be Helpful in Detecting And/Or Verifying a Disability

Functional behavior assessments can provide useful information to help determine and/or verify a disability and evaluate how that disability may affect behavior. The determination of a disability is a critical step for accessing appropriate financial support and education. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act forbids discrimination against individuals with disabilities and under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), federal funds are provided to guarantee access to special education and related services to children with disabilities. 

Giving Children The Chance To Thrive

Every fresh peak ascended teaches something
~ Sir Martin Conway

An image of nature | Giving Children The Chance To Thrive

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Signs and Symptoms of Autism

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition with a wide range of signs, symptoms, and abilities. 

Every person on the spectrum is different and manifests a unique pattern of behavior. 

Read on to find out more about the symptoms and signs of autism, how this disorder affects everyday life, and the ways applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy can help your autistic child. 

Causes of Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental condition that impacts how a person perceives the world and communicates with others. An estimated 1 in 54 children in the United States are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The condition is three to four times more common in boys than in girls

Until recently, scientists believed that autism was caused mostly by genetic factors. However, newer research indicates that the environment may also play an important role in the development of autism spectrum disorder. In other words, if someone is genetically predisposed to autism, environmental elements will increase their risk of having the condition.

Environmental factors that may contribute to autism include:

  • Taking antidepressants in the first three months of pregnancy
  • The use of medications such as valproic acid (Depakene) or thalidomide (Thalomid)
  • Viral infections during pregnancy
  • Nutritional deficiencies in early pregnancy, particularly not getting enough folic acid
  • Exposure to chemical pollutants, such as heavy metals and pesticides, while pregnant
  • Advanced age of either parent
  • Complications at birth or shortly after birth, including very low birth weight, oxygen deprivation, and neonatal anemia
  • Extreme prematurity.

A controversial 1998 research proposed a link between autism and the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. However, multiple studies have since shown that the disorder is not caused by vaccines. 

Symptoms of Autism

Autism is usually diagnosed in early childhood. Most parents start noticing autism symptoms in their children around the age of two. At the same time, some children may develop normally to then suddenly become withdrawn and lose previously acquired language and other skills. 

Autism symptoms in babies 

Autism can be diagnosed with early signs in babies as young as two months old. While this condition doesn’t affect physical appearance, it influences the way they communicate and relate to the world around them.

Lack of eye contact

By the time they are two months old, babies typically make eye contact with others. Infants who are affected by autism spectrum disorder make less or no eye contact at this stage.

Limited facial expressions

At four months old, babies should be able to copy facial expressions, such as smiling or frowning, as well as to smile spontaneously. However, autistic babies usually don’t respond to their caregiver’s facial expressions.

Not responding to their name

At six months, most babies show an awareness of their own names. Babies who later develop autism typically don’t respond to their names at this age. 

Little pointing or gesturing

From around nine months, your baby should be able to point things and copy the gestures of the people around them. Autistic babies gesture much less and show a lack of nonverbal communication in general.

Decreased joint attention

Joint attention—where a baby’s gaze follows an object you’re showing them—is an essential way of interacting with others. Babies with autism spectrum disorder are often unable to pick up on these nonverbal communication cues and will ignore you and the object you are pointing to.

Autism spectrum disorder symptoms in children

As your child gets older, autism symptoms become more diverse. They typically include verbal and non-verbal communication difficulties, impaired social skills, and highly inflexible behaviors.

A person teaching child how to wash hands

Delayed language or speech

Most children with autism have at least some level of difficulty when it comes to speech and language. They often start talking late and understand fewer words than their neurotypical peers. An estimated 40 percent of autistic children have no language at all

The signs of speech and language difficulties in children with autism spectrum disorder include: 

  • Speaking in an unusual tone of voice or with an odd rhythm or pitch
  • Repeating the same words or phrases over and over again
  • Repeating questions instead of answering them
  • Making grammatical errors
  • Using wrong words
  • Not understanding simple directions
  • Taking what is said literally.

Nonverbal communication difficulties

Children with autism spectrum disorder usually have trouble picking up on subtle nonverbal cues and understanding body language, which makes social interactions difficult. 

Symptoms of nonverbal communication difficulties include: 

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Limited use of facial expressions and gestures
  • Not understanding other people’s facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures
  • Atypical reactions to bright lights, smells, textures, and sounds
  • Unusual posture or movements, such as exclusively walking on tiptoes.

Social difficulties

Basic social interactions may be challenging for children with autism spectrum disorder. They will typically display signs of social difficulties such as:

  • Lack of interest in other people
  • Difficulties connecting with others and making friends
  • Trouble understanding feelings and talking about them
  • Not playing pretend games, engaging in group games, imitating others, or using toys in creative ways.


Children with autism often have inflexible behaviors and interests, for example: 

  • Following strict routines 
  • Difficulty adapting to changes and transitions from one activity to another
  • Unusual attachments to toys or objects
  • Lining toys up or arranging them in a certain order
  • Having restricted areas of interest
  • Focusing on one specific part of an object such as the wheels of a toy car
  • Repeating the same actions or movements (flapping hands, rocking, twirling, or spinning objects). 

Autism symptoms in adults

While severe forms of autism spectrum disorder are discernible before the child turns two, high-functioning individuals are often not diagnosed until later in their lives. 

The most common symptoms of autism spectrum disorder in adults include:

  • Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings and thoughts
  • Struggle to interpret facial expressions and body language
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Being unable to keep up with conversations
  • Feeling anxiety in social situations
  • Difficulty expressing feelings
  • Limited interest in certain subjects or activities
  • Preference for being by themselves.
A child playing with his toys

Areas That Autism Can Affect

Autism affects many different areas of everyday life. Here are just a few of them:

Social interactions

Social dysfunction is one of the main characteristics of autism spectrum disorder. Individuals with autism can show little interest in the world around them and have a limited understanding of other people’s feelings. They often experience social interactions as unpredictable and frightening, for example, they may not understand the purpose of saying hello and goodbye, showing facial expressions, waiting for their turn to speak, or maintaining eye contact. As a consequence, they may find it difficult to form friendships, which can lead to social isolation.

Repetitive behaviors

Many children and adults with autism spectrum disorder display repetitive behaviors such as hand flapping, rocking, and tapping. Repeating certain gestures and actions is often seen as a soothing activity that provides a sense of control in stressful situations.

Anxiety or excess worry

Anxiety disorders, including obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, and social anxieties, are the most common comorbid conditions in people with autism. Intense levels of stress and anxiety are often related to changes in routines or environment and can affect a person both psychologically and physically.

Delayed cognitive skills

Autism spectrum disorder commonly affects cognitive skills. As a consequence, children on the spectrum often struggle with focus, transitions, memory, time management, as well as emotional control. These challenges may impact their learning and development.

Unusual eating and sleeping habits

Atypical eating behaviors, like limited food preferences, hypersensitivity to food textures, and holding food in the mouth without swallowing, can be seen in most children with autism

In addition, sleep problems are much more common among autistic than neurotypical children. Autism is often accompanied by other conditions, such as gastrointestinal problems, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and anxiety, which can make falling and staying asleep even more difficult. 

How ABA Therapy Can Help Your Kid with Autism

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a type of therapy that focuses on changing unwanted behaviors while reinforcing desirable ones. ABA therapy is currently the most effective form of autism treatment, with an improvement rate of over 90 percent.

ABA therapy can help your child to build and strengthen social skills and social communication skills, for example:

  • Improve language skills 
  • Increase their attention, focus, and memory
  • Teach them to follow directions and instructions
  • Help them understand social cues like facial expressions and body language
  • Teach them how to initiate conversations and respond to questions
  • Reduce problematic behaviors such as aggressiveness and meltdowns
  • Help them acquire basic academic and pre-academic skills.

Applied behavioral analysis therapy uses positive reinforcement in the form of rewards and other incentives. When a desirable behavior is rewarded by a special treat or activity, the child is more likely to repeat the action. Over time, this method can encourage positive behavioral changes in children diagnosed with autism.

ABA therapy breaks down essential skills into small, concrete steps. It then builds toward more significant changes in functioning and independence levels. ABA therapy sessions for autistic children typically include a combination of play, direct instructions, various activities, adaptive skills training, as well as parental guidance.