Challenging Behavior and Symptom Severity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

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In a recent study, CARD researchers Jina Jang, Dr. Dennis Dixon, Dr. Jonathan Tarbox, and Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh found a relationship between symptom severity and challenging behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Children with ASD are often reported to display challenging behavior (e.g., aggression, tantrums, self-injury, stereotypy, etc.); however, research examining the prevalence of challenging behavior in this population is limited. The purpose of the current study was to explore the incidence of challenging behavior and the relationship between symptom severity and challenging behavior in children with ASD receiving early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) services.

Participants included 84 children with ASD. The participants were evaluated using the Autism Spectrum Disorder – Diagnostic for Children (ASD–DC) to measure ASD symptom severity, and the Autism Spectrum Disorder – Behavior Problems for Children (ASD– BPC) to measure challenging behavior. Both instruments were completed via caregiver report.


The results revealed that 94 percent of the participants engaged in at least one type of challenging behavior. Challenging behaviors that were most commonly endorsed and reported as most severe included: repeated and unusual vocalizations, unusual play with objects, leaving the supervision of caregiver without permission, and repeated and unusual body movements. Furthermore, a relationship was identified between ASD symptom severity and challenging behavior, with the participants with greater symptom severity demonstrating a higher degree of challenging behavior.

Findings suggest that children with ASD demonstrate a high prevalence of challenging behavior, with repetitive and stereotypic behaviors being the most common. Furthermore, the results suggest a relationship between ASD symptom severity and challenging behavior. It is important to examine challenging behavior in children with ASD receiving EIBI services because challenging behaviors are likely to disrupt skill acquisition in such programs. Further research should explore the relationship between challenging behavior and EIBI outcomes in children with ASD.


References

Jang, J., Dixon, D. R., Tarbox, J., & Granpeesheh, D. (in press). Symptom severity and challenging behavior in children with ASD. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2010.11.008


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