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The Center on Brain Injury
Research & Training

Functional Behavior Supports for Students with TBI

Functional Behavior Supports for Students with TBI

A key aspect of supporting students with TBI is often managing problem behaviors. An important thing to remember when dealing with problem behaviors is that all behaviors have a function. In general terms, the function of every behavior is to obtain or get something (either tangible or intangible) or to escape or avoid something.   

Obtain or Get Avoid or Escape
Objects Activities
Peer attention Peers
Adult attention Adults
Choices (control) Unwanted attention

When trying to understanding the function of a behavior it is vital to look at all the events leading up to and following the problem behavior. Before you can develop an intervention, you need to understand:

Setting Event

A setting event can be anything that increases the likelihood of the problem behavior occurring. Example: not eating breakfast.


Or antecedent, can be anything that happens that directly triggers the behavior. Example: Being teased at recess.

Problem Behavior

The identified behavior of concern. Example: Hitting another student.

Maintaining Consequences

The reinforcer of the behavior. It increases the likelihood of the problem behavior happening again. It can be both a positive or negative consequence as long as the problem behavior is reinforced. Example: Teasing stops.

Remember, every behavior has a function. If you figure out the function of the behavior before you put in place plans to change it, you increase your likelihood of a successful intervention. Tools to conduct Functional Behavioral Assessments are available on the CBIRT website.

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Questions? Contact Melissa Nowatzke, TBI Teams Project Coordinator