Severe Challenging Behavior Budget Recommendations–New Jersey
Governor Murphy’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget proposal allocates $9.5 million in state and federal dollars toward addressing the needs of individuals with severe challenging behavior. Many children and adults with autism frequently engage in severe challenging behaviors, such as aggression, self-injurious behavior (SIB), and property destruction. These behaviors can range from skin-picking and slapping to head-banging, self-biting, punching, and kicking.
According to the Autism New Jersey website, New Jersey currently has the highest rate of autism in the country (1 in 34 children) and 6 out of 10 families endure severe challenging behavior every day. Research suggests that anywhere from 30% to 70% of individuals with autism will engage in SIB at some point in their lives. Left untreated, 84% of these individuals will continue to engage in SIB 20 years later with no significant change.
Parents are struggling to properly care for loved ones who engage in severe challenging behavior. These behaviors negatively affect the whole family, curtailing participation in social and other family events. Siblings also suffer and they may even need to lock themselves in their rooms to avoid aggression. New Jersey families are seeking solutions that can effectively treat the severe challenging behavior and keep their children safe. With Governor Murphy’s attention to this problem, the State of New Jersey can increase access to desperately needed treatment.
Who is affected?
Dual Diagnosis: Children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities who are also diagnosed with a mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, psychosis, etc. fall under the umbrella term of “dual diagnosis.”
Severe Challenging Behavior: Children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities who exhibit behavior such as aggression, self-injury, and other behaviors that inflict pain, injury, or pose a risk to the health and safety of themselves and others fall under a unique category. Even without the secondary mental health diagnosis, these individuals deserve to be included in Governor Murphy’s 2020 budget initiative.
What therapies work to address severe challenging behaviors?
Currently, the most well-researched and effective treatment for severe challenging behavior is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA assessment and treatment procedures have been proven to substantially reduce severe challenging behavior. The common ABA model typically begins with conducting a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) to determine the cause of the severe challenging behavior. Then the therapist develops a treatment plan that includes teaching and reinforcing adaptive behaviors that serve the same purpose for the individual as the severe challenging behavior. As the individual learns that the new adaptive behavior results in positive reinforcement, the frequency of the new adaptive behavior increases while the severe challenging behavior decreases. Identifying children with severe challenging behavior and providing them with access to ABA treatment as early as possible is a crucial first step. The earlier we can provide effective treatment, the more success we will have in keeping everyone safe.
We hope that Governor Murphy’s budget will increase access to ABA treatment for individuals who need it. With this knowledge about the effectiveness of ABA, Governor Murphy can create a robust partnership between state officials, experts, and parents. Together, this group could integrate best practices in treatment with federal and state funding to develop services that can serve as models for the rest of the country.
Alpha School an private special education school in New Jersey
Our Mission at The Alpha School is to help all of our special needs students with the learning, social, language, and behavioral support they deserve. Our highly skilled staff are committed daily to helping each student to becoming the best they can while providing a safe and nurturing educational environment.
We would be more than happy to discuss your child’s specific needs and challenges, so please call us at 732.370.1150, or request a tour of Alpha School of Jackson, NJ located just minutes off of Route 9 and Route 195 in Ocean County.
— John Gonzalez, Principal-Alpha School, Jackson, NJ