Advocating for Proper Assessment

You are a BCBA who has recently begun working as an in-house consultant for your local public school district.  The teacher of one of the special education classrooms you oversee has reported her student engaging in high rates of tantruming.  After discussing things with the teacher and with the student’s parents, as well as after completing several observations of the student in the classroom, you’ve noticed that the tantruming actually includes several different behavior topographies that generally occur in the following hierarchy: whining, screaming, throwing/swiping/breaking materials, and finally biting his hand(though this doesn’t happen as frequently as the other topographies).  The behaviors occur multiple times almost every school day, though there doesn’t seem to be any clear correlation between time of day and the behaviors’ occurrence.  However, things have gotten to the point where the student no longer seems to be learning as the behaviors are interfering with his engagement in the instruction, as well as impacting the teacher’s ability to provide instruction to the other students.  At your recommendation, the student’s parents were able to schedule a check up with a pediatrician to rule out any medical variables relating to these behaviors, and the doctor indicated no apparent medical cause for these behaviors.

ABC data collected during your classroom observations hasn’t suggested any clear function for these behaviors.  Therefore, you as the school principal of you can conduct a functional analysis to help better identify the variables affecting the student’s behavior.  The principal, who knows a little bit about behavior analysis and who has had some rather negative experiences with previous BCBA consultants, denies your request to complete the functional analysis, even though the student’s parents have already agreed and the teacher is onboard with doing whatever is necessary to help her student.  The principal tells you that the functional analysis cannot be done as it would require the student to be removed from his educational environment for too long, and doing so would deny the student access to educational opportunities mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  Furthermore, he says that because self-injury is a component of the student’s tantruming, conducting a functional analysis would cause more unnecessary harm to the student.  The principal concludes by saying she knows many BCBAs who do all their assessment using descriptive ABC data, so you should just focus on that.

How would you respond to the principal?  What recommendations would you make given her concerns?  Using what you’ve learned in this course thus far, as well as other courses you’ve completed, provide a clear, thorough argument for proper functional assessment for this student’s behavior.  Be sure to full explain your logic as well as your rationale for your arguments.  When writing your answer, remember that you are talking with a school administrator who doesn’t have a background in behavior analysis.