Issues in the Use of Aversives

Factors Associated with Behavior Modification for Autistic and Other Developmentally Disabled People
  • Johnny L. Matson
  • Jay A. Sevin
Part of the Current Issues in Autism book series (CIAM)


Nationally, professionals in the field of autism have been rocked by the controversy surrounding the use of punishment procedures also called aversives (Singh & Repp, 1993). The techniques in question have generally been discussed in the context of behavior modification strategies or learning-based technology, and psychologists and educators have been the primary groups involved. Behavior modification has had widespread application in the treatment of persons with autism (Van Houten, 1990). However, since the late 1980s the rhetoric surrounding these procedures has intensified. National agencies and policymakers have become involved in the debate over which procedures should and should not be considered acceptable to treat severe behavior problems of handicapped people (AAMD, 1987; Blake, 1988; Keyes, Creekmore, Karst, Crow, & Dayan, 1988; Matson, 1988). Given the broad implications of such a debate, the impact on the field has been considerable. A brief review of some of the major issues, including confusion over definition, conflict between advocates and professionals, concepts as ideologies, data versus testimonials, age appropriateness as ideology, freedom of treatment choice, and professional control versus treatment by bureaucratic rule will be the primary focus of this chapter. Some likely outcomes and future directions of the aversives controversy will also be discussed.


Developmental Disability Corporal Punishment Advocacy Group Disable Person Apply Behavior Analysis 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johnny L. Matson
    • 1
  • Jay A. Sevin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA

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