Topography and Function of Challenging Behaviors in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at a greater risk for challenging behavior than individuals with other developmental disabilities. An essential step in the treatment of these behaviors is the identification of the function of the behavior. In the current study, data were collected from a large database, in which supervising clinicians from a community-based behavioral health agency recorded the topography and function(s) of behaviors treated as a part of an individual’s behavior intervention plan. In a sample of 3216 individuals (mean age = 10.67, SD = 4.61) with ASD, the frequency of the most common challenging behaviors and the identified function of the behavior were examined. Stereotypy was the most commonly reported topography, followed by noncompliance and aggression. Overall, escape was the most commonly reported function of behavior. To further evaluate how clinicians operationally define these behaviors, a part-of-speech text analysis was conducted and found a high degree of overlap in the operational definitions of challenging behavior (i.e., aggression, disruption and tantrum; noncompliance and tantrum; obsessive behavior and stereotypy; self-injurious behavior and aggression). These data are discussed in further detail.


This article was originally published in Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders, volume 2, in 2018. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41252-018-0063-7

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