Severe Problem Behavior

Practical Functional Assessment Process

Hundreds of successful applications of the Practical Functional Assessment (PFA) process have been published; hundreds more have been successfully conducted by practitioners. Please see the links below for materials that may be helpful for implementing the PFA process in your program or practice.

The Interview

Socially meaningful treatment outcomes have only been demonstrated when reinforcing contingencies are personalized. Personalized analyses of problem behavior are designed from open-ended interviews.

  • English form: word  or pdf    
    • Thanks to Sandy Jin for the write-in pdf version.
  • Italian form                             
    •  Thanks to Elena Clo for this translation.
  • French form                             
    • Thanks to Charlotte Escane & Delphine Roux for this translation.
  • Spanish form                           
    • Thanks to Rocio Nunez for this translation.
  • Portuguese form                       
    • Thanks to Paula Braga-Kenyon for this translation.
  • Arabic form                               
    • Thanks to Faisal Alnemary, Rogaiyah Hamidaddin, and Fahad Alemary for this translation.                                                            
  • Russian form                           
    •  Thanks to Pavel Demidov, Vera Ermolova, Daria Solovieva, Anastasia Semiannikova

Tips for conducting an open-ended interview can be found here.


The IISCA is an acronym for an interview-informed synthesized contingency analysis, which is a type of functional analysis that quickly, safely, and usually reveals sensitivity of classes of problem behavior to ecologically-relevant reinforcement contingencies. A successful IISCA serves as an effective baseline context to treat problem behavior and develop important social repertoires.

  • A form for designing the IISCA from a completed interview can be found here (updated: February 2020).
  • Tips for designing and implementing a successful IISCA can be found here (updated: February 2020).
  • A data sheet for recording problem behavior during the IISCA can be found here (updated: February 2020).
  • For an excel graph template to accompany the above performance-based data sheet, click here.

NEW! A Beta-version of an app is available to help you collect data and graph your IISCA performance and results! The app, titled IISCA, was created through a collaboration between Garage94 and FTF Behavioral Consulting. Click here for directions on how to download and test the new app for iPhones and click here for directions on how to download and test the app android users.

An updated list of peer-reviewed publications showing the effectiveness and treatment utility of practical functional assessment processes can be found hereRely on these articles to support your implementation of the PFA process.

The Skill-Based Treatment Process

Following an effective PFA process, treatment almost always involves teaching the child to obtain the same outcomes in the same contexts with another, more appropriate, behavior. This is often called functional communication training or FCT. During the initial stage of FCT, each communication response (e.g., “My way, please”) is reinforced immediately with the same reinforcers that were shown to be maintaining problem behavior, and problem behavior is no longer reinforced. More developmentally appropriate communication responses are then shaped (The child says, “Excuse me” to obtain a listener’s attention, waits for acknowledgement from the listener, and then says, ” May I have my please”) and intermittent delays or denials of requested reinforcers are introduced. The child is next taught an effective response to delays and denials (e.g., taking a deep breath and saying, “Okay, no problem”). Delay tolerance is strengthened by providing the maintaining reinforcers directly following these responses. Variable behavioral expectations during delays are then introduced; meeting those expectations is then reinforced. The skills of functional communication, delay and denial tolerance, and compliance with reasonable adult expectations result from this process.  Use the materials below to implement this process.

  • A form for designing treatment from a successful IISCA can be found here (updated: February 2020).
  • Tips for designing and implementing treatment can be found here (updated: February 2020).
  • For a table illustrated the sequence of the SBT process, click here.
  • Data sheets for recording problem behavior during the treatment process can be found here (updated: February 2020). These documents also serve as guide for implementing the shaping process (i.e., they include criteria for escalating response requirements) and for arranging for intermittent and unpredictable reinforcement of skills.

Because the behaviors that result from the treatment process are life skills, shown to both replace problem behavior and prevent the development of problem behavior, it is essential that each skill persists, so treatment is arranged so that each behavior is reinforced immediately some of the time. The treatment that is transferred into homes, classrooms, and communities basically involves the unpredictable and intermittent reinforcement of the three life skills of functional communication, delay tolerance, and compliance. Click the following for a visual representation of the treatment: schematic. The treatment looks complicated when diagrammed on the schematic, but the variable durations of reinforcement and the variable and unpredictable responses requirements are easy to implement with randomizer apps like Roundom or Namesinahat.

Here are pictures of Roundom customized for a function-based treatment. Roundom allows for random selection of both response requirements and reinforcer durations and does so while replacing previously selected options. Thanks to Jessica Slaton for identifying this useful program.


A similar app called NamesinaHat customized for a function-based treatment. NameinaHat allows for random selection of both response requirements and reinforcer durations as well but does so without replacing previously selected options. This program also provides a list view of randomized response requirements or reinforcer durations. Thanks to Kara Verseckes for alerting us to this useful program.

For guidelines for 2019 CPT codes and reporting of the Practical Functional Assessment and Skill-Based Treatment process for Michigan providers, click here. This resource was created by Brie Elsasser and Morgan VanDenBerg of Autism Centers for Michigan and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.