Functional analyses have historically involved the direct reinforcement of severe problem behavior. A common concern shared by people when they first learn of functional analysis procedures is that either the child or the person conducting the analysis may be harmed during the analysis because severe problem behavior is evoked and reinforced in an effective analysis. Rather than delay, make intermittent, or omit the reinforcers for severe problem behavior in the analysis, which is likely to increase the odds of an unsafe analysis, we strongly recommend providing all suspected reinforcers immediately and consistently in the analysis for both severe problem behavior as well as its precursors (i.e., those behaviors that parents and teachers often report as preceding or at least co-occurring with the more severe forms of problem behavior). We have found that these particular procedures lead to safe and often times quite relaxed analyses. This sort of analysis was experienced by Michael Fantetti, M.S., BCBA, a doctoral fellow at WNEU.
Click here to learn about Michael’s experience.
(Please see the Q&A section in future weeks to read about ways to alleviate concerns regarding the inferential leap that the reinforcement contingency influencing precursor behaviors is the same as that influencing the topographies of severe problem behavior that were not observed in the analysis).