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Assessment of Biobehavioral States and Analysis of Related Influences

Biobehavioral states are levels of arousal ranging from asleep to agitated. Students with profound disabilities may not respond to the stimulation and interactions around them because they have difficulty establishing and maintaining alert arousal states. They, like any other student, are available for learning only when they are alert. The primary task of teachers serving this population is to become skillful at using environmental management and specific sensory input to create conditions that facilitate establishment and maintenance of alert states. Once students are alert, appropriate learning materials and social interactions must then be provided in order for learning to occur.

Many internal and external factors influence arousal states. All significant factors must be considered in determining the best way to facilitate alert states with any given student. For that reason, biobehavioral state assessment is crucial before interventions occur. Under no circumstances should it be assumed that a student is non-responsive under all conditions before biobehavioral assessment and subsequent intervention has been provided.

Two of the most well-known biobehavioral assessments that have come from the research and literature developed during the last twenty-five years are the Carolina Record of Individual Behavior (CRIB) and the Analyzing Behavior State and Learning Environments Profile (ABLE). Each of these tools has strengths, but cost and accessibility limit the use of each for some teachers. The informal, teacher-made assessment tool offered in this article attempts to assist teachers in their efforts to identify factors influencing their students' arousal states. Teachers are encouraged to change this tool as needed to meet the unique needs of an individual student. Teachers are also encouraged to read the resource material listed and to take advantage of training opportunities as they arise.

The success of this type of assessment is highly dependent upon the sharing of information. Parents and staff members who will be recording states and other information should plan the assessment together. All assessors must agree on the characteristics of each state for the student they are assessing. Using a videotape of the student to practice recognition of states before the actual assessment takes place is very helpful.


Guess, D., Mulligan-Ault, M., Roberts, S., Struth, J., Siegal-Causey, E., Thompson, B., Bronicki, G.J., & Guy, G. (1988). Implications of biobehavioral states for the education and treatment of students with the most handicapping conditions. JASH, 13(3), 163-174.

Guy, B., Ault, M., & Guess, D. (1993). Project ABLE manual: Analyzing behavior state and learning environments profile. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, Department of Special Education.

Rainforth, B. (1982). Biobehavioral state and orienting: Implications for education profoundly retarded students. TASH Journal6, 33-37.

Simeonsson, R.J., Huntington, G.S., Short, R.J., & Ware, W.B. (1988). Carolina record of individual behavior (CRIB): Characteristics of handicapped infants and children. Chapel Hill, NC: Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Smith, M., & Shafer, S. (n.d.). Assessment of biobehavioral states and analysis of related influences. Retrieved March 26, 2003, from

Visual Conditions Module 06/06/04

S4 Handout E: Assessment of Biobehavioral States and Analysis of Related Influences