Functional assessment is an approach to the assessment of problem behaviors. It focuses on identifying the environmental events that maintain those behaviors to design effective interventions. In the United States, the use of functional assessment is mandated in the school setting by federal law and has been found to be effective for many different problems and populations. Functional assessment derives its logic from operant learning principles and, thus, seeks to identify the events that immediately precede (antecedent events) and follow (consequent events) problem behaviors, as these events are thought to be responsible for the maintenance of these behaviors.

For example, a teacher has a student who engages in severe tantrum behavior in his or her classroom and seeks a behavioral consultation. A behavior analyst conducts ...

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