Library of the History of Autism Research



Employing Electric Shock With Autistic Children

Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, Volume 6, Number 2, pp. 163-173 (1976)

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The use of electric shock in a punishment paradigm has continued to be a highly controversial issue in the treatment of autistic children. While the experimental literature argues for the effectiveness of the procedure for reducing maladaptive behaviors, some clinicians and researchers have expressed fear of possible negative side effects. The reported side effects of contingent electric shock were reviewed in an attempt to evaluate the validity of these fears. The review indicated that the majority of reported side effects of shock were of a positive nature. These positive effects included response generalization, increases in social behavior, and positive emotional behavior. The few negative side effects reported included fear of the shock apparatus, negative emotional behavior, and increases in other maladaptive behavior. The implication of these findings for the use of the shock procedure are discussed in terms of correct usage of the shock, therapist reservations, and alternative procedures.


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