Psychological treatment strategies for challenging behaviours in neurodevelopmental disorders: what lies beyond a purely behavioural approach?

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes


Purpose of review
Challenging behaviour shown by individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) has a major negative impact. There is robust evidence for the efficacy of treatments based on applied behaviour analysis. However, such approaches are limited in important ways – providing only part of the whole solution. We reviewed the literature to provide an overview of recent progress in psychological treatments for challenging behaviour and how these advance the field beyond a purely behavioural approach.

Recent finding
We identified 1029 articles via a systematic search and screened for those implementing a psychological intervention with individuals with NDD (or caregivers) and measuring the potential impact on challenging behaviour. Of the 69 included studies published since 2018, more than 50% implemented a purely behavioural intervention. Other studies could generally be categorized as implementing parent training, meditation, skill training or technology-assisted interventions.

Greater consideration of the interplay between behavioural and nonbehavioural intervention components; systematic approaches to personalization when going beyond the behavioural model; mental health and broad social communication needs; and models that include cognitive and emotional pathways to challenging behaviour; is needed to advance the field. Furthermore, technology should not be overlooked as an important potential facilitator of intervention efforts.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92–109
Number of pages18
JournalCurrent Opinion in Psychiatry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2020


  • challenging behaviour, neurodevelopmental disorder, psychological treatment, behavioural management

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