How does FCT change challenging behavior?
FCT usually involves a three step process (Mancil & Boman, 2010):
- Completion of a functional behavior assessment to identify the function of the child’s problematic or difficult behavior. The child may use tantrums to get out of an activity that causes distress, or the difficult behavior may be geared towards getting attention. It can also be a way to demand access to something the child wants
- The next step involves identifying a communication response, therefore, determining a more desirable way of communication to replace the challenging behavior. This does not have to mean verbal communication, other forms of communication like sign language is appropropriate as a replacement for the difficult behavior. The child may use any readily available (appropriate) method to communicate, this could include gestures, nonverbal communication, or pictures. In the above example the child had a tantrum because an activity caused distress; the child could be taught to point to a picture that indicates: “I need help.” Instead of a tantrum the child is communicating that he/she finds the activity overwhelming and help is needed to complete it successfully
- In the last step a FCT treatment plan is devised which may include ignoring difficult behavior and rewarding, reinforcing or acknowledging the positive replacement behaviors (or appropriate communication) identified in step two. In future, attempts by the child to communicate through the past problematic behavior will need to be ignored—the child should realize that communicating in the appropriate way will get attention, reinforcement and/or rewards.