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Functional Assessment

A functional abilities evaluation (FAE) or functional capacity evaluation (FCE) is a comprehensive evaluation of your physical and functional abilities, using objective and measurable tests. In an FA, a practitioner arranges “conditions” that are common in the natural environment such as a teacher presenting non-preferred work tasks, a distracted teacher, or a parent not attending to a child. Functional assessments should be conducted when the student‘s behavior interferes with their own learning or the learning of others, presents a danger to self or others, or the behavior results in a suspension or interim placement in an alternative setting approaching 10 total days. the use of FA procedures is determined by the skill level of the practitioner, the resources available to the practitioner, and the setting itself. While there are many ways to individualize FA conditions, there are four or five conditions that are typically run as part of the assessment.


  • Social Attention: The attention condition is a test to determine if problem behavior occurs to access social attention from others. In this condition, attention is typically withheld and is provided following target behavior for a brief period of time usually for 20 seconds. This might take the form of a reprimand or soothing comment.

  • Tangible: The tangible condition is another test to determine if problem behavior is maintained by access to preferred items or activities. In this condition, access to preferred items is typically withheld such as a doll/toy being removed, and is provided following a target behavior. If the client responds negatively then it can be inferred that the behavior is caused by certain items being taken away.

  • Escape: The escape condition is a test to determine if problem behavior occurs to escape demands. In this condition, a nonpreferred activity is typically presented such as doing chores and a break, which is the escape, is provided following target behavior for a brief period of time usually for 20 seconds. If the client reacts negatively to this situation such as running away then it can be inferred that having a chance to escape from a monotonous task is the factor behind the negative behavior.

  • Alone or Ignore: The alone or ignore condition is a test to determine if problem behavior occurs for nonsocial reasons. In other words, behaviors such as repeating names and screaming are likely to occur when they are by themselves. In this condition, the individual is usually left alone for some period of time to see if the behavior persists when no one else is present. If this behavior is constantly repeated then it is best for the client to be left alone so it will not persist.

  • Control: The control condition serves as the comparison for all of the other conditions. In this condition, the individual has free access to social attention, and preferred items/activities and no demands are present. As such, there is usually very little motivation to engage in problem behavior.

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