when all else fails ..

Ed note: Thank you ALL so much for your love and support yesterday. The IEP meeting went very well. Now we await the official proposal and refinement process, but there were no surprises this time (thank God!) and we’ve got a wonderful team of people working together to support our girl. Knowing you were there with us made all the difference in the world.

In preparation for Brooke’s IEP planning meeting, we requested what’s called a Functional Behavior Assessment, or FBA. An FBA is essentially used to determine – or at least to TRY to determine – the purpose of a student’s behavior across various environments. Although it’s true that behavior is a means of communication for all of us, it’s particularly salient for those who have challenges with communicating in other ways (ie verbally).

So, when a kid like mine screams in the middle of the classroom, the question is – or should be – what is she trying to tell us? The next question is – or should be – what tools can we give her to communicate that more effectively and far less disruptively?

But before we can do that, we have to figure out why she is screaming.

So we asked for an FBA, and the team readily agreed that it would be a very useful tool, especially given that we were making a number of pretty serious changes to her service delivery at the time (a story for another day).

The FBA is seventeen pages long. It contains a bunch of necessary jargon and a whole lot of data. It is written somewhat formally and sounds like your typical evaluation report. There’s lots of talk about things like MASs (Motivation Assessment Scales) and ABCs (Antecedents, Behaviors and Consequences.)

Overall, reading the FBA was dry and sort of depressing. Poring over the data about incidences of ‘Non-Compliance, Protests and Self Injurious Behaviors was well, not fun. So the last thing I expected to do while reading it was to laugh so hard that I snorted.

But, well, it turned out to be pretty damned funny. I mean, maybe it’s just me, but I thought the following line from the Classroom Observation section was nothing short of hilarious. Not to mention genius. And I’m thinking I may just employ this strategy next time a meeting is going nowhere good. Just sayin’.

In an attempt to escape the demand to continue writing her paragraph, Brooke complained, then pretended to fall off her chair.

To paraphrase my awesome friend Stimey, if we could help our kids harness the creative power and ingenuity that they so successfully use to avoid tasks and manipulate everyone around them, they could rule the world.

Amen, Stimey, And just imagine a world ruled by that kind of creative genius.

I’m in.


I am honored to be nominated for a Sensory Processing Disorder Bloggers Network (SPDBN) Award! The site is fabulous. If you’re not familiar with them, click on over and check ’em out. And be sure to click -> HERE <- to read some wonderful posts (and then, well, vote for mine! :))

28 thoughts on “when all else fails ..

  1. My student’s mom and I have recently been talking about how incredibly adept our little man is at manipulating us and the situation. It definitely impedes progress at the goals and programs that I set out for him at times, but he is, indeed, hilarious and genius! I keep asking how many graduate degrees it takes to “outsmart” my three-year old students, and they keep raising the bar!

    Glad the IEP meeting went well!

  2. Our Little Miss Brooke is nothing if not creative and hilariously funny! And, she knows it! It seems that I’ve seen that from some other members of her family!

    Love you,

  3. We had our parent teacher conference yesterday and it was so difficult to hear that Aidan is still very far behind in math and reading, although better than math, yep still behind. He just received a diagnosis of auditory processing disorder and my hope is that with new information and strategies, academics will get easier and he will gradually improve to grade(ish) level. But that wasn’t all I heard. Aidan is struggling at recess, not wanting to play soccer with his peers which kinda bummed me out. It wasn’t until much later I thought, what if they had music/dance/singing during recess? Then they would see a kid wanting to participate and sharing in that activity. So late last night I emailed the teacher and SW at school and asked, couldn’t hurt right? Cause this is what we do, we interpret their behavior and find a way to implement change to make “IT” work.

  4. That is Connor’s favorite tricks too! I had the giggles at the IEP when they told me he used Flatulence to get out of a reading assessment!

  5. I had a brief attempt to add ABA to our lives a couple of years ago. I was disappointed in the philosophical underpinnings of ABA. Yes, it works, but so does controlling the sensory environment and then putting up with the child disliking things and communicating THAT in the worst way imaginable. Were you comfortable with how the ABA team plans to intervene? Will you have the power to reshape things they are addressing and pull them back if the behavior is caused by sensory issues rather than defiance? I’ll be interested to see how you make ABA work for you guys. Will they be with her 24/7? Apparently, a good ABA team can find funding so families don’t pay, the district does. Keep us posted, please.
    Carleigh (aka da Creature’s Mama)

    • I think there might be a misinterpretation here. FBA is not the same thing as ABA – FBA is a functional behavioral analysis – trying to figure out WHY things are happening – has nothing to do (directly) with therapy or *doing* anything with the child. It’s figuring out what is going on in order to determine what to do to create a better learning environment.

      ABA, or applied behavioral analysis, is a direct intensive intervention with a child.

      • Ah, I understand. The ABA people came and did my son’s FBA and that was as far as we got. I hated everything about what they proposed, and the school refused to have them on the campus. I did not know FBA’s were generated by anyone other than ABA people, but things are odd where I live, admittedly.

  6. Stimey is absolutely right…..these kids are genius – Not too long ago I thought my youngest was developing some sort of clothing sensory issue or some sort of fashion sense I wasn’t sure. He was actually picking out clothes in the store and asking if he could have them…..I was in such shock – “You bet buddy!” I just threw them all in the buggy and proceeded to check out. A more astute mother may have made some sort of connection to the fact that all these clothes he picked out were camouflage patterns. Getting dressed the next day he was so excited – he actually told me “no one will be able to see me now Mom and I won’t have to talk at school”…..so if you want to avoid work or meetings and are concerned about injury by falling down on purpose just change your fashion sense and no one will know you are there!

  7. Me too~! I love that feature in our kids 🙂 And even though you told me it was coming, I snorted too – seriously funny.

  8. Some of the most creative minds are of those who needed to “find another way”!! I think she’s both genius and hilarious!!

  9. I predict a rash of people purposely falling out of chairs among your readers in the near future. Seriously, I could use lessons from my kid on “avoiding non-preferred tasks.” I should study his FBA for tips.

    • Great idea! Maybe we could pool our sources and have a list of ways for all of us to avoid non-preferred tasks! Also I think from now on if the IEP meeting is not going the way I want it to that my husband and I should fall off our chairs at the same time. The thought of this has had me chuckling all day.

  10. That’s funny. One of my boys does a very similar protest – he makes a point of knocking his chair over, but then he very carefully “throws” himself onto the ground. Protest, yes. Hurt yourself in the process, not so much.

  11. Awesome! Their manipulation tactics are not to be taken lightly. It always amazes me how, wherever we go, my daughter seems to have people falling over themselves to serve her. “Glass of water? Yes please, cookie? sure, anything else I can get you sweetheart?” I sit there with my mouth hanging open wondering how she does it. Then, she stares at me in shock when we get home and I tell her “sure honey, get it yourself!” Harnessing that power is my daily goal.

  12. Falling off the chair! LOL My son did this for years in elementary and middle school. I was always shocked at his teacher’s responses and even found it difficult not to chuckle a little at them.

    I’m glad the IEP went well. We have ours in a couple of months. 🙂

  13. I love it…and it’s so true. My little guy is ingenius when it comes to eloping from tasks he doesn’t like or doesn’t find interesting. It is amazing when I think of it…talk about creative problem solving and abstract thinking! And it always works….

  14. My girl used to avoid answering questions with a rude “No” ,then I got her to pleasantly say “No,thank you” to at least have a way to express herself. Now her new way at times is “That’s it, I’m out of here”! Got to love it! LOL.

  15. In Grade One, my son would shout, “I’m dead” when asked to print in his journal. He was told by his Teacher that he could not say the word “dead” in her class. The very next day when handed his journal he looked at the Teacher and said, “I’m extinct”.
    She couldn’t help but laugh:>

  16. So this FBA, who does the evaluation? Did the school pay for it since it was requested to help with the IEP?

    Basically, I’m just wondering if it might help my situation and wanted a little bit more information.


  17. Pingback: The Price « Blue Dog

  18. Thanks, Jess, for blogging. Autism parenting is a sad and lonely road, and you make me feel less alone, and remind me to try to focus on some good or funny moments along the way, so I don’t get too worn down. As a wise one once said, SPED parenting is a marathon, not a sprint.

  19. I remember laughing so hard when reading my (then 8 yr old) Aspie son’s first evaluation from the school. It was noted that when asked which animal he would choose to be he answered “a small speck of specialized bacteria” (or something close to that) When asked why, he said so that he could clone himself. LOL how awesome is that? I love my kid sooo much! 🙂

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