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Disruption and Aggression

Destructive and Disruptive Behavior

Destructive or disruptive behavior is a common type of problem behavior that may be displayed by individuals with an autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disability. Common forms of these behaviors include, but are not limited to, throwing, ripping, tearing, kicking, banging or breaking objects, furniture, or even windows. Destructive behaviors often increase the likelihood of injury to the individual and others and, as a result, can greatly impair one’s ability to function in typical community settings (e.g., home, school), possibly leading to a more restrictive placement. As with other problematic behaviors, there are a variety of reasons why individuals may engage in disruptive behavior including: gaining access to attention from others or to preferred toys or activities; escaping from non-preferred tasks, people, or settings; or as a source of sensory stimulation. Research has shown that these types of problem behaviors can be reduced with appropriate behavioral treatment.

Aggressive behavior

Aggression is a common type of problem behavior that is more likely to be displayed by individuals with an autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disability than his or her typically-developing peers. Generally, aggression includes potentially harmful behavior directed at another person and can include behaviors such as hitting, kicking, pinching, pulling hair, biting, and spitting.

Aggression is displayed by approximately 2 to 20% percent of individuals with intellectual disabilities, and generally increases with age (i.e., more teens engage in aggression than young children). Aggression often impairs the person’s social relationships across home, school, and community settings. In cases of more severe aggression, the behavior may be dangerous for those who care for the individual. There are a variety of reasons why an individual may engage in aggression. For example, engaging in aggression may result in attention or access to a preferred toy or activity. Aggression may also occur to escape from or avoid low preferred activities such as activities of daily living (e.g., showering) or academic demands. Behavioral interventions have been demonstrated to be effective for treating aggressive behaviors.

References for Further Reading

Beavers GA, Iwata BA, Lerman DC. (2013). Thirty years of research on the functional analysis of problem behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 46(1), 1-21.

Brosnan J, Healy O. (2011). A review of behavioral interventions for the treatment of aggression in individuals with developmental disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 32(2), 437-446.

Hanley GP, Iwata BA, McCord BE. (2003). Functional analysis of problem behavior: A reviewJournal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 36(2), 147–185.

DeLeon IG, Fisher WW, Herman KM, Crosland KC. (2000). Assessment of a response bias for aggression over functionally equivalent appropriate behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 33(1), 73–77.

Northup J, Wacker D, Sasso G, Steege M, Cigrand K, Cook J, DeRaad A. (1991). A brief functional analysis of aggressive and alternative behavior in an outclinic setting. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 24(3), 509-522.

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