Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

School-Based Behavior Management of Cursing, Hitting, and Spitting in a Girl with Profound Retardation

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

School-Based Behavior Management of Cursing, Hitting, and Spitting in a Girl with Profound Retardation

Article excerpt


The present case study reports the use of ignoring, positive reinforcement, passive restraint and time-out in the treatment of a 10 year-old girl with profound retardation. Disruptive behaviors in the classroom and home environments included hitting, spitting and cursing. Implementation of ignoring of negative behaviors along with passive restraint in response to hitting or spitting, and verbal praise for positive behaviors was associated with an initial increase in cursing, which then declined over three sessions. Negative aspects of the passive restraint procedure led to implementation of time-out which was associated with maintenance of all three behaviors at low levels for 25 days following its initiation. Behavioral improvements were reported to be maintained until the end of the school year (6.5 months after baseline observation). This pilot study underscored the importance of collaboration between educational staff and behavioral consultants for effective behavioral interventions in school.

Formal research studies have shown that behavioral principles and techniques are effective in promoting behavior change in children with developmental disabilities (Hamilton, Stephens, & Allen, 1967; Bostow & Bailey, 1969; Kobe & Hammer, 1994). Foundational to these clinical interventions is initial and ongoing monitoring of behavior to document the level of problems and the impact of interventions on them. Findings and observations from these clinical interventions should be viewed as useful to advancing the field, but much of this information is never made public. Hawkins and Matthews (1999) pointed out that persons whose careers consist primarily of applied work seldom do what they would call research, and many of them are averse to research, as they would define it. This aversion is partly due to the fact that the research with which they are familiar is very academic, labor intensive, and perfectionistic. Hawkins and Matthews go on to define Level 1 research, which is a form of "accountable service deli very." Such research is not necessarily intensive, does not require sophisticated research skills, and is used in daily clinical decision-making to improve professional accountability and hopefully, enhance the effectiveness of clinical services (cf. Hawkins, Mathews, & Hamdan, 1999).

The purpose of this study was to use a Level 1 research approach to evaluate the effectiveness of behavioral procedures to reduce negative behaviors displayed by a girl with profound mental retardation. These negative behaviors were preventing her successful integration into a special education classroom of eight students. In a collaboration between university-based behavior specialists and teaching staff, a single subject experimental design (i.e., baseline, two successive intervention conditions) was used to assess the effects of our intervention on the girl's high levels of cursing hitting and spitting in school.



"Anne" was an African-American, 10-year-old girl with profound mental retardation, who began attending a special elementary school in Baltimore for children with intellectual handicaps. She started attending this school late in the fall, after she presented behavioral problems that could not be addressed in an elementary school offering less intensive special educational services. An initial session with the biological mother revealed that Anne was currently in foster care. Anne's problem behaviors included aggression toward peers, noncompliance, and tantrumming. Anne's Individual Educational Plan described specific problem behaviors of "hitting, spitting and cursing." Related to her handicapping condition and challenging behavioral problems, a one-to-one aide was assigned to work with Anne in the classroom.


We used a repeated measurement single subject experimental design with three conditions (A=baseline, B=ignoring and passive restraint for negative behavior, praise for positive behavior, C=time-out and continued praise for positive behavior) to evaluate our interventions. …

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