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Self-injurious behaviour in autism spectrum disorder

Richards, Caroline Ruth (2012)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Background: Self-injury is reported to be common in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, there are limited robust data detailing the prevalence, persistence, associated person characteristics and operant function of self-injury in ASD.
Method: Three large scale survey studies were employed to establish the prevalence, persistence and risk markers for self-injury in ASD compared to contrast groups. Experimental functional analyses were conducted, including a fine grained temporal analysis of behaviours associated with self-injury. Results: Self-injury was displayed by 50% of the ASD sample and was persistent over three years in 77.8% of the group. Self-injury was associated with higher levels of autistic behaviour in individuals without idiopathic autism. Self-injury was associated with higher levels of impulsivity, hyperactivity, painful health conditions, repetitive behaviours and lower levels of adaptive behaviour. ‘ASD weighted’ operant functions for self-injury were identified for the majority of children with ASD.
Conclusions: Self-injury is prevalent and persistent in ASD. The presence of ASD phenomenology is a risk marker for self-injury. There is a role for repetitive behaviours, pain and impaired behavioural inhibition in the development and persistence of self-injury. Self-injury is likely to be maintained by operant reinforcement in many individuals with ASD, through ‘ASD weighted’ reinforcement contingencies.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Oliver, Christopher
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
Department:School of Psychology
Subjects:BF Psychology
RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:3515
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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