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

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Colleges, School and Institutes


Purpose of review: Challenging behaviour (CB) 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 CB and how these advance the field beyond a purely behavioural approach.

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

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


Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Opinion in Psychiatry
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 31 Oct 2019


  • challenging behaviour, Neurodevelopmental disorder, Psychological treatment, Behavioural management