Functional analysis and treatment of self-injurious behaviour in a young child with traumatic brain injury

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Primary objective: There has been no research evaluating the utility of functional analysis (FA) in identifying effective interventions for severe problem behaviour in very young children with traumatic brain injury (TBI). It was hypothesized that FA technology would be applicable for this population and facilitate effective intervention development. Research design: A within-subject A-B-A reversal design was used to evaluate a functional communication training (FCT) intervention. This design allows for a demonstration of experimental control of the intervention over behaviour in single-case research. Methods and procedure: The authors conducted an FA of self-injurious behaviour (SIB) in an 18-month old boy with TBI. Results of the FA suggested that SIB was maintained, at least in part, by contingent maternal attention. An FCT intervention was used to teach a request for attention using an alternative communication device. Main outcomes and results: The FCT intervention reduced SIB to near zero and resulted in consistent use of an alternative communication device, functionally replacing SIB with desirable behaviour. The child's mother was coached to conduct all treatment sessions and reported satisfaction with the process. Conclusion: Analysis of behavioural function may play an important role in developing effective interventions for very young TBI patients with behaviour problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1511-1518
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Injury
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Declaration of Interest: The authors report no conflicts of interest. This research was supported, in part, by the Observational Methods Lab in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota and Eunice Kennedy Shriver NICHD Grant No’s: 44763, 47201 to the University of Minnesota.


  • Functional communication
  • paediatric
  • vision


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