School Psychology Review

Self-Injurious Behavior: Motivating Conditions and Guidelines for Treatment

V. Mark Durand, Edward G. Carr

pp. 171-176

Mini-Series on Developmental Disabilities

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ABSTRACT: Self-injurious behavior is a serious concern for individuals who must provide educational services to developmentally disabled children. In this article, research is discussed that relates to the motivation of self-injury. Recent work has focused on the influence of social attention, tangible rewards, escape from aversive situations, and sensory consequences in the maintenance of self-injurious behavior. The selection of an appropriate treatment depends on the psychologist’s or educator’s ability to assess the impact of these diverse controlling variables. Current behavioral work on self-injurious behavior has attempted to expand the treatment of this behavior from simple manipulation of consequences (e.g., punishment) to a consideration of how to teach children behaviors that can serve as alternatives to self-injurious behavior. Guidelines are outlined for designing treatment programs for self-injurious behavior in light of multiple determining factors. Finally a new, non-aversive treatment, differential reinforcement of communication (DRC), is described and discussed.