Assessing Challenging Behaviors in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Prevalence, Rating Scales, and Autonomic Indicators

  • Ira L. Cohen
  • J. Helen Yoo
  • Matthew S. Goodwin
  • Lauren Moskowitz
Part of the Autism and Child Psychopathology Series book series (ACPS)


Challenging behaviors (CBs) are relatively common concerns in persons with intellectual disabilities (ID) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD), have major impacts on the family, and seriously affect the ability of such individuals to reside in more “normalizing” environments. While the term “challenging behavior” covers a wide gamut of problems in people with ID/ASD, the focus of this chapter will be on CBs of most concern to families and professionals: aggression toward others, property destruction, and self-injury; their prevalence; as well as the use of rating scales to assess their frequency or severity. At the end of this section, we will also cover novel autonomic measures that may help in understanding, predicting (and perhaps preventing) their onset. Although we will not cover functional assessment of CBs, as these are discussed elsewhere in the handbook, brief mention of the possible causes of CBs in this population and assessment issues will be mentioned.


Autism Spectrum Disorder Autism Spectrum Disorder Intellectual Disability Physical Aggression Challenging Behavior 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to acknowledge the late Dr. Edward (Ted) Carr for his pioneering work in the field of functional behavior assessment, biological setting events for self-injury, and intervention for challenging behaviors in individuals with ASD and other developmental disabilities. The research performed at the Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities was supported by funds from the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. Research at the MIT Media Lab cited in this chapter is supported by grants from the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation and Autism Speaks. The first author would also like to thank Dr. Paul Starker and his team at Overlook Hospital whose kindness, sensitivity, skills, and expertise enabled this chapter to have been written.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ira L. Cohen
    • 1
  • J. Helen Yoo
    • 2
  • Matthew S. Goodwin
    • 3
  • Lauren Moskowitz
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNew York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental DisabilitiesStaten IslandUSA
  2. 2.Applied Behavior Analysis Laboratory, Department of PsychologyNew York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental DisabilitiesStaten IslandUSA
  3. 3.Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Program in Media Arts and SciencesCambridgeUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA

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