, Volume 41, Issue 10, pp 1303-1320
Date: 14 Dec 2010

Comparison of Behavioral Intervention and Sensory-Integration Therapy in the Treatment of Challenging Behavior

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Abstract

The objective of the current study was to compare the effects of sensory-integration therapy (SIT) and a behavioral intervention on rates of challenging behavior (including self-injurious behavior) in four children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. For each of the participants a functional assessment was conducted to identify the variables maintaining challenging behavior. Results of these assessments were used to design function-based behavioral interventions for each participant. Recommendations for the sensory-integration treatment were designed by an Occupational Therapist, trained in the use of sensory-integration theory and techniques. The sensory-integration techniques were not dependent on the results of the functional assessments. The study was conducted within an alternating treatments design, with initial baseline and final best treatment phase. For each participant, results demonstrated that the behavioral intervention was more effective than the sensory integration therapy in the treatment of challenging behavior. In the best treatment phase, the behavioral intervention alone was implemented and further reduction was observed in the rate of challenging behavior. Analysis of saliva samples revealed relatively low levels of cortisol and very little stress-responsivity across the SIT condition and the behavioral intervention condition, which may be related to the participants’ capacity to perceive stress in terms of its social significance.

This research was conducted by the first author under the supervision of the second and third authors in partial fulfillment of the requirements for her MA degree in ABA at NUI, Galway.