Severe Behavior Program

What Is the Severe Behavior Disorders Program?

A major focus of the Severe Behavior Disorders Program in the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders is to provide specialized services to children with autism and other developmental disabilities who display destructive behavior, such as, aggression, self-injury, pica, or property destruction. These problems occur in about 10–15% of children with developmental disabilities. Children displaying severe behavior problems may:

A substantial and growing body of research has shown that behavioral treatments designed with consideration of the cause(s) of problem behavior are more effective than arbitrarily selected treatments. The Severe Behavior Disorders Program determines the cause(s) of problem behavior through functional analysis. Functional analysis results are then used to design individually tailored treatments for each child’s problem behavior. During treatment, children are often taught socially appropriate ways to interact with parents and caregivers through functional communication training (FCT). 

What types of services are offered?  

The Severe Behavior Disorders Program offers services including evaluation, outpatient services, and a day-treatment program. Each child moves through the program based on his or her individual needs.

Initial Evaluation

The family and child will be seen by a team of specialists with training and expertise in the assessment of severe behavior problems. Some children require only an evaluation and written recommendations, whereas others require outpatient therapy or day treatment.

Outpatient Therapy

Children with less-severe behavior are seen multiple days per week for 1-3 hours.

Day Treatment Therapy

Those with the most severe behavior problems attend the day treatment program for 6 hours per day, 5 days per week.

Parent Training

Once an effective treatment is developed, parents and other care providers are trained on how to use it. The long-term success of the treatment depends on how accurately the program is carried out by parents, in-home aides and other care providers. Our training involves written and spoken instruction, modeling, role-play and feedback.

Who does the severe behavior disorders program serve?  

The program provides services to school-aged children (ages 3–21) who display severe behavior problems, such as, aggression, self-injury, pica, or property destruction that pose a significant risk to self, others, or the environment and cannot be safely managed or effectively treated in a less-intensive program.

What treatment approach is used?  

During therapy sessions, techniques are used to identify environmental variables that may be contributing to the behavior problem. Trained therapists, as well as the child’s caregivers, conduct sessions to directly test the effects of specific environmental precursors and consequences on the behavior. A specialized therapeutic environment is used to allow safe evaluation of dangerous behavior. Padded treatment rooms with one-way windows for observation are used to allow safe evaluation of behavior.

Data are collected in order to guide assessment and development of treatment. Treatment is refined until goals are achieved. Psychologists with specialty training oversee all therapy sessions.