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Functions of behavior

What are they and how do they help us respond?

If your child participates in ABA therapy, you have likely heard the phrase “function of behavior.” It’s an important component in developing a behavior intervention plan and an area where training can easily occur with your child’s clinical team. There are 4 functions of behavior; Sensory, Escape, Attention, Tangible. You may also see these written as the 4 A’s: Automatic, Avoidance, Attention, Access. These four functions give insight into why behaviors may be occurring, including identifying contingencies that maintain the behavior. Let’s break it down and look at some questions to ask yourself related to the behavior.

When contingencies are identified that maintain behavior, the clinical team is able to plan for interventions that address antecedent conditions and consequences that impact the behavior. These interventions should be shared with families so that there is consistent implementation across individuals.


Hanley, G. P., Iwata, B. A. and McCord, B. E. (2003), FUNCTIONAL ANALYSIS OF PROBLEM BEHAVIOR: A REVIEW. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 36: 147-185. doi:10.1901/jaba.2003.36-147


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