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In this lesson, you will explore examples of functional behaviors assessment hypotheses. Included with each example is an overview of the student’s observation data and the resulting hypothesis.

What Is FBA Hypothesis?

Functional behavioral assessment (FBA) is used to analyze a student’s behavior for the basic motivation behind the behavior. Once the behavior has been defined and data collected about the circumstances surrounding the student’s actions, the next step is to write a hypothesis, a statement that presents the behavior, what preceded it, and the supposed function.As a special education teacher, you will need to be familiar with FBA, including how to write hypothesis statements.

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Let’s look at several examples.

Example 1

Amy is a seventh-grade student diagnosed with an emotional impairment. Observations reveal that Amy lays her head on her desk for several minutes during each class period and twirls her fingers in her hair. She calls out randomly during instruction and when she is supposed to be working.


When Amy is expected to attend to instruction or to engage in classwork, Amy lays her head on her desk, twirls her hair, and blurts out because she wants to avoid or escape instruction and classwork.

She also desires attention from the teacher.

Example 2

Madeline is a sixth grader diagnosed with a learning disability in mathematical reasoning. Madeline is not completing work in math. Observations of Madeline’s behavior show that she turns sideways in her desk while her teacher attempts to redirect her or to explain further.

She refuses to make eye contact with her teacher, and when prompted with questions, Madeline only shrugs.


When Madeline is expected to work on math or is prompted about her understanding, she turns away, won’t look at her teacher, and won’t respond verbally because she wants to escape from the math instruction and classwork.

Example 3

Hadden is an eighth grader who struggles with reading comprehension and written expression.

In his language arts class, Hadden responds slowly to instruction, often exclaiming that he doesn’t understand. He will ask questions but produces little work. He often puts his head down when he should be completing a task.


When Hadden is presented with a reading or writing task, Hadden asks questions and blurts out his lack of understanding but produces little work and puts his head down when he wants to escape the assignment and gain the attention of his teacher.

Example 4

Oliver is a sixth grader with a learning disability in written expression and a coexisting emotional impairment. Oliver rushes through his work to be able to use the class pass for the school maker space. Observations reveal that when Oliver’s teacher does not approve his work and allow him to go to the maker space, Oliver slams items on his desk or the floor and argues with her. He continues to argue until the teacher relents, or he is removed from the room.


When Oliver is prevented from visiting the maker space because his work is incomplete or incorrect, Oliver slams items on the desk or floor and argues because he wants to obtain a privileged activity and escape his work.

Lesson Summary

In functional behavioral assessment, the hypothesis states the behavior, preceding circumstances, and possible function of the behavior. These examples show how the observation data can be turned into hypothesis statements.


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