In vivo desensitization in the management of self-injurious behavior
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In vivo desensitization procedures were used successfully to manage self-injurious face slapping in a 10 yr old retarded boy. Face slapping had increased and persisted at self-injurious intensity following a surgical dental evaluation and had initially been prevented by the use of a hockey helmet. Parent's efforts to remove the helmet resulted in increased agitation, severe self-injurious behavior, and repeated efforts by the child to replace the helmet to restrain himself, or prompt adult restraint. An in vivo desensitization procedure involving increasingly extended periods without the helmet was introduced by the parents into a hierarchy of situations at home. Progress was monitored across four situations using a multiple baseline design with 6, 9, 12 and 15 month follow-up on each baseline. During treatment, self-injurious behavior was eliminated and the child developed a self-control response of wearing the helmet when agitated and spontaneously removing it when relaxed. Continued improvement was noted at 6, 9 and 12 month follow-ups. At the 15 month follow-up, no self-injurious behavior was observed and the use of the helmet was discontinued.
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