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Practical Functional Assessment

Skill Based Treatment

White Theme Bouquet
White Theme Bouquet

At APPLE Consulting, we are proud to offer cutting-edge services in Practical Functional Assessment and Skill-Based Treatment (PFA/SBT). Our approach is based on decades of research and experience and we are constantly refining our methods to ensure that our clients receive the best possible care.

The origins of PFA/SBT can be traced back to early days, when researchers first began to explore the relationship between behavior and its environmental context. Over time, this work led to the development of functional assessment procedures that could be used to identify the underlying causes of problem behavior.


One key insight that emerged from this research is that behavior is not simply maintained by one function, but by multiple functions that may interact in complex ways. At APPLE Consulting, we take a synthesized approach to reinforcement, carefully analyzing the various factors that influence behavior in order to develop effective treatment plans.  This approach allows for a more comprehensive understanding of behavior and allows for more effective interventions. 


Greg Hanley is a prominent figure in the field has played a significant role in the development of PFA and SBT. Hanley emphasizes the importance of safety, televisibility, and rapport building in his approach to behavior analysis. He also has tenets for teaching effectively and without fear, bringing joy to learning, developing trusting relationships, and turning behavior on and off before it escalates.


The IISCA (Interview-Informed Synthesized Contingency Analysis), also developed by Greg Hanley, is a key tool that we use in our work. This structured interview allows us to gather information about the individual's history, preferences, and current situation, which we can then use to develop a customized treatment plan that is tailored to their specific needs.


The components of SBT include communication, toleration, relinquishing, transitioning, starting, varying, enduring, and persevering. Each component has a specific meaning and is important for teaching functional skills. Communication involves teaching individuals to communicate their needs effectively. Toleration involves teaching individuals to tolerate delays or changes in their environment. Relinquishing involves teaching individuals to give up items or activities when necessary. Transitioning involves teaching individuals to move between activities or environments smoothly. Starting involves teaching individuals to initiate activities or interactions. Varying involves teaching individuals to vary their responses based on the situation. Enduring involves teaching individuals to persist in an activity even when it becomes difficult. Persevering involves teaching individuals to continue working towards a goal even when faced with obstacles.


At APPLE Consulting, we believe that teaching without fear is essential to helping individuals make lasting progress. That's why we take a positive, strengths-based approach to our work. We focus on building on the individual's existing skills and abilities, rather than simply trying to eliminate problem behavior.

More Benefits of SBT

  1. Accurate Functional Assessment: PFA emphasizes the importance of directly assessing the function of problem behavior. Traditional functional assessments often relied on indirect methods, such as interviews and checklists, which might not provide a clear understanding of the underlying function. In contrast, PFA employs direct observation and manipulation of antecedents and consequences to determine the maintaining variables of the problem behavior accurately. This accurate functional assessment allows for the development of targeted and effective intervention strategies.

  2. Individualized and Contextualized Interventions: PFA recognizes that effective interventions must be tailored to the unique needs and contexts of each individual. By identifying the specific variables that maintain problem behavior, PFA helps create interventions that directly address those variables. This individualized approach ensures that treatment plans are designed to be relevant and meaningful to the person receiving services, maximizing the chances of successful outcomes.

  3. Focus on Skill Development: Rather than solely targeting problem behaviors, PFA and skill-based treatment prioritize the acquisition of necessary skills. By systematically assessing and addressing skill deficits that underlie problem behavior, individuals are provided with more adaptive and socially acceptable alternatives. This approach promotes the development of functional skills that enable individuals to better navigate their environment and engage in meaningful interactions.

  4. Efficient and Time-Saving: PFA and skill-based treatment emphasize efficiency in behavior analytic interventions. By precisely identifying the function of problem behavior, interventions can be designed to directly address those functions. This focused approach can significantly reduce the amount of time and resources spent on unnecessary or ineffective interventions, resulting in more efficient treatment and quicker progress for individuals receiving services.

  5. Generalization and Maintenance: PFA and skill-based treatment strategies aim to promote generalization and maintenance of skills beyond the treatment setting. Rather than focusing solely on rote skill acquisition, these methods prioritize teaching skills that are applicable and functional in natural environments. This focus on generalization ensures that individuals can use their newly acquired skills across various settings and situations, leading to lasting behavior change.

  6. Positive and Proactive Approaches: PFA and skill-based treatment are rooted in positive and proactive strategies. By identifying the function of problem behavior and teaching alternative skills, these methods aim to prevent challenging behaviors before they occur. This proactive approach reduces the likelihood of problem behaviors and fosters a positive environment that supports individuals' overall well-being.

The Concept of HRE (Happy, Relaxed & Engaged) in SBT


"HRE" stands for Happy, Relaxed & Engaged, and it is a concept developed by Dr. Greg Hanley in the field of Skill-Based Treatment (SBT). SBT is an approach used in behavior analysis to teach new skills and reduce challenging behaviors in individuals with developmental disabilities.


The goal of SBT and the HRE concept is to create an optimal learning environment that promotes positive engagement and reduces problem behaviors. The HRE concept emphasizes the importance of ensuring that individuals are in a state of happiness, relaxation, and engagement during the teaching and learning process.


When an individual is happy, relaxed, and engaged, they are more receptive to learning and are more likely to acquire and generalize new skills. This positive state of being also helps to minimize the occurrence of challenging behaviors that may arise due to frustration, anxiety, or other negative emotions.


To achieve the HRE state, practitioners using SBT consider several factors:

  1. Preferences and choices: Taking into account the individual's preferences and interests when selecting learning activities can increase their motivation and engagement. Offering choices within the learning tasks also promotes a sense of control and autonomy.

  2. Reinforcement: Providing immediate and meaningful reinforcement for correct responses or appropriate behaviors helps to reinforce the learning process and maintain the individual's engagement. Reinforcement can take the form of verbal praise, tokens, access to preferred activities, or other preferred items.

  3. Task analysis and individualization: Breaking down complex skills into smaller, manageable steps (task analysis) allows for systematic teaching and ensures the individual's success at each stage. The tasks should be tailored to the individual's abilities and learning style, considering their strengths and areas for improvement.

  4. Clear instructions and prompts: Providing clear and concise instructions, along with appropriate prompts, helps the individual understand what is expected of them and enables them to respond effectively. Prompting strategies can be faded gradually as the individual becomes more proficient.

  5. Errorless learning and error correction: Minimizing errors during the learning process through errorless learning techniques can prevent frustration and help maintain the HRE state. However, if errors occur, prompt and corrective strategies should be used to facilitate correct responses and prevent the reinforcement of incorrect behaviors.


By creating an environment where individuals are happy, relaxed, and engaged, SBT and the HRE concept optimize the learning experience, leading to better skill acquisition, generalization, and ultimately, improved quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities.

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