Managing Behaviour That Challenges

Research categorised under the heading “Managing Behaviour That Challenges” covers strategies for addressing behaviours such as self-injurious behaviour (eg. head banging or biting self), assaultive behaviour (eg. kicking or hitting others) and destructive behaviour (eg. throwing classroom items or destroying IT equipment). The focus of this areas of research is to use proactive strategies to reduce behaviour that challenges.


Using Behaviour Contracts to Decrease Antisocial Behaviour in Four Boys with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder at Home and at School – Emma Hawkins, Sheri Kingsdorf, Jackie Charnock, Mariann Szabo, Edi Middleton, Jo Phillips and Grant Gautreaux

The use of a behaviour contract, a simple written agreement between pupils and teachers/parents, has been shown to be a successful strategy for managing and preventing incidents of challenging behaviour. By agreeing in advance on what reinforcer will be given to a child if their behaviour is appropriate, incidents of challenging behaviour have reduced.  This paper was published in the British Journal of Special Education.


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This research study describes how a behaviour contract has been implemented to achieve positive and enduring results for four boys diagnosed with autism. Four case studies are described within this research study focussing on reductions in assaultive behaviours, destructive behaviours, out-of-seat behaviours, inappropriate contact with others and loud vocalisations.

The researchers also focussed on increasing appropriate behaviour such as following teacher directions in the classroom and at playtimes. The common thread across all four case studies is the use of a behaviour contract to build a link between home and school. A simple written agreement was established at the start of each week where it was clear to the pupils how they were expected to behave in school and what reinforcer they would gain at home if they met these behaviour expectations. It was concluded that the behaviour contract can be considered an important and useful tool in helping address challenging behaviours in children with a diagnosis of autism.

Link to full published article

The Effect of Differential Reinforcement of Other Behaviour with Self-Monitoring on Motor Stereotypy and Self-Injurious Behaviours – Natalie Leow-Dyke

This research project focused on reducing incidents of hand-biting, pinching skin on fingers/hands and flicking fingers of a 12-year-old boy diagnosed with autism by using a combination of proactive strategies. The main strategy was to reinforce intervals of time where the hand-biting and the other behaviours that challenge did not occur. A specific reinforcer was selected to address this behaviour and the participant was only able to access this reinforce if the target behaviours did not occur. The participant was also taught to monitor the intervals of time himself and he used a tick chart to record whether behaviours occurred or not.  This study was submitted for the CABAS® Master Teacher Rank.

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Differential reinforcement of other behaviour is a procedure used widely to address behaviour that challenges. It is a beneficial procedure because specific reinforcers are only delivered if the behaviour that challenges is absent. The participant cannot access the specified reinforcer if the behaviour that challenges occurs. In this study the participant was provided with a tick chart so that he could score whether the behaviour occurred or not. He also used a timer and was taught to tick his chart after an interval of time and to reset the timer for the next interval. After three consecutive 3-minute intervals the participant accessed his specified reinforcer if the target behaviours did not occur. The length of the interval gradually increased.  The self-injurious behaviour reduced to zero levels and this was maintained over time. The motor stereotypy (e.g. the finger-flicking) reduced to near-zero occurrences.

Link to research