The treatment of severe self-injurious behavior by the systematic fading of restraints: Effects on self-injury, self-restraint, adaptive behavior, and behavioral correlates of affect

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  • University of Kent
  • Queen Mary's Hospital


Severe self-injurious behavior (SIB) in people with mental retardation is difficult to treat when dangerously frequent or intense responding rules out functional analysis and interventions that permit free responding. This situation is common when restrictive devices, such as straight arm splints, are used. In this study, the effects of introducing flexion into a straight- arm splint, on SIB, self-restraint, adaptive behavior, and behavioral correlates of affect were examined for three individuals with severe mental retardation. Using single-case design methodology, for two individuals self- injury was reduced to zero, while the overall level of restriction was also significantly reduced. From the observed behavioral correlates of affect, there was no evidence of an increase in negative affect with the introduction of the new splint and the fading procedure, but there was evidence of an increase in positive vocalizations. Engagement in activities and social contact were not affected by the introduction of the new splint. The reasons for a decrease in SIB with a corresponding decrease in restriction in the absence of any manipulation of contingencies for SIB are discussed, with particular reference to stimulus control.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-165
Number of pages23
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 1998