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Aversive Procedures

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Position Statement of AAIDD

Some people who have an intellectual or developmental disability continue to be subjected to inhumane forms of aversive procedures as a means of behavior support. The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) condemns such practices and urges their immediate elimination. The aversive procedures to be eliminated have some or all of the following characteristics:

  1. Obvious signs of physical pain experienced by the individual.
  2. Potential or actual physical side effects, including tissue damage, physical illness, severe stress, and/or death. 
  3. Dehumanization of the individual, through means such as social degradation, social isolation, verbal abuse, techniques inappropriate for the individual’s age, and treatment out of proportion to the target behavior. Such dehumanization is equally unacceptable whether or not an individual has a disability.

This statement is intended to articulate important values and principles and to challenge the field of developmental disabilities to promote research activities leading to identification, testing, implementation, and dissemination of non-aversive alternatives to address severe behavioral disorders. Specific regulations regarding research, clinical practice, or individuals in making professional judgments are the province of regulatory agencies, funders, and certifying bodies.

Eliminating inhumane aversive procedures is a reflection of a growing concern for reducing actions by professionals and others that compromise the lives of people with an intellectual or developmental disability and their families. Positive behavior supports not only should reduce problem behaviors that pose functional barriers to successful life, but also enhance those behaviors that lead to self-determination, independence, productivity, and lifelong learning. Relationships between providers and self-advocate should foster the empowerment of the person, enhance choice, and promote the integration of people with intellectual disability or other developmental disabilities into community settings.

The AAIDD urges continuing research into humane and effective methods of positive behavior support.

Adopted by AAIDD Board of Directors on July 11, 2012, and as revised and amended on January 29, 2020.

See related AAIDD position statements on the use of positive behavioral supports and electric shock.

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