Contingent Electric Shock as a Treatment for Challenging Behavior for People With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: Support for the IASSIDD Policy Statement Opposing Its Use
Issues: The International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IASSIDD) is an international group of researchers, clinicians, students, parents, and self-advocates that promotes worldwide research and exchange of information on intellectual and developmental disabilities. IASSIDD recently developed a policy statement regarding their opposition to the use of contingent electric skin shock (CESS) with individuals with challenging behavior and intellectual and developmental disabilities. To support the policy, the available literature was reviewed to evaluate the efficacy, side effects, generalization, and long-term effectiveness of the procedure as an intervention for challenging behavior.
Findings: The review provides a history that demonstrates that, although CESS can decrease the frequency of challenging behavior, it comes at a cost in terms of physical and emotional side effects, and questions remain regarding the long-term effectiveness of the procedure. In addition, we raise several ethical and methodological issues that make the research on the use of CESS even more concerning.
Conclusions: Although research continues in some countries, these studies are now rare. In fact, in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has just banned the use of such devices with individuals with self-injury and aggression. It is hoped that, because there are many other forms of treatment that have shown to be effective for severe challenging behavior, we can completely avoid the use of CESS.