Hickman Lowder

We meet the lifetime legal needs of children and adults with disabilities, the elderly, and their families.

Applied Behavior Analysis

| Dec 16, 2019 | Firm News, Special Education

We recently welcomed Rachel Avner Torrance of Accessing Abilities Behavioral and Educational Consulting to our Cleveland office to discuss Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) with a small group of parents.  She spoke to us about the importance of a proper and thorough functional behavioral assessment in developing a positive behavior plan.  Here are some of our key takeaways:

ABA is a systematic, scientific approach of looking at environmental variables that impact socially significant behavior in order to develop procedures to change or reshape the unwanted behaviors.  ABA is used for children with Autism, but it is also very beneficial for a much wider spectrum of disabilities, including ADHD and anxiety.  ABA is used to teach new skills, build independence, and address behaviors that get in the way with learning, socializing or meeting life goals.

One must be a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst in order to implement ABA in private settings, but school personnel do not have to be board certified in order to implement ABA in schools.  All BCBA’s must have a master’s level degree, but Ohio requires state-level certification for BCBAs, as well. This certification is called COBA: Certified Ohio Behavior Analyst. BCBA-D indicates that the behavior analyst has a doctoral level of education; a BCaBA is a certified assistant, who must have a bachelor’s degree; and an RBT is a registered behavior technician with a high school degree.

Reinforcement is a key component to changing behaviors in positive behavior plan.  It follows the response and helps to create repeat performances of the good behavior.  We should avoid taking things away from our children, as this is a form of punishment for bad behavior.   Instead, we should develop a plan wherein we reward them for good behavior. The rewards/privileges must be specifically tailored to the individual so that it is something important to them, which motivates them to stay on track.

FBAs are functional behavioral assessments.  School psychologists can conduct FBAs, but it’s most desirable to have a BCBA conduct the assessment.  A proper assessment will include observations by the Assessor wherein the antecedent, behavior, and consequence of each are recorded.  The Assessor then analyzes the data to determine the function of the behavior:  Was it for escape? Avoidance? Automatic reinforcement (i.e., just because it feels good)?  Once the function is determined, a proper plan can be put into place.  This is called a BIP or Behavior Intervention Plan.

Families can ask the IEP team for an FBA or behavioral consult whenever they want to know why a certain behavior is occurring, when the student has become physically dangerous, when his behaviors are inhibiting his ability to learn or causing disruption with his peers, when adequate progress isn’t being made, etc.  An FBA must be performed if, following a 10+ day suspension, a manifestation hearing has determined that the child’s behaviors are directly related to his disability.


Wow~ a lot of great information! The bottom line is that accurate, thorough behavioral assessments by skilled, certified practitioners are essential in order to create a successful and positive behavioral plan and IEP.

If you’d like a copy of Rachel’s complete PowerPoint presentation, please email us at [email protected].