Severe problem behavior among individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is a significant public health problem. In addition to individual-level costs including restrictive environments, reduced learning opportunities, and compromised quality of life, there are substantial costs to family, educational, and health systems. The past three decades have seen tremendous advances in behavioral assessment technology and its translation into efficacious and effective behavioral interventions. Despite this, severe problem behavior in the form of self-injury persists for a significant number of individuals. One approach to increasing our scientific understanding of persistent self-injury is to adopt a biobehavioral approach that examines relevant environmental determinants in the context of biological systems. Based on this, our group has focused on biological markers relevant to pain and stress. The specific objectives of this presentation will be to 1) provide an overview of the clinical problem of self-injurious behavior (SIB) among individuals with I/DD and ASD, 2) review current findings from ongoing studies trying to bridge the gap between pain-relevant biomarkers and sensory features associated with chronic SIB, and 3) suggest that nociceptive and immune mediated activity may be relevant to unraveling some of the mystery surrounding chronic SIB.
Review Frank Symon’s biographical statement.