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Self-Injurious Behavior in Older Adults with Intellectual Disabilities

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aging, challenging behaviors, developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, self-injurious behaviors


Elizabeth Perkins, PhD, RNMH


Self-injurious behavior (SIB) is a distressing type of problem behavior that may be exhibited in individuals with intellectual disabilities (IDs). This article provides an overview of SIB, its underlying causes and functions, as well as other key variables associated with its manifestation. Adults with IDs are routinely living longer. Given this rapidly emerging and expanding population, special attention is given to SIB in aging adults with IDs that may result from age-related risk factors. Risks include increasing and unresolved health issues, physical changes, declining physical abilities, transitions to new residential environments, and the potential for experiencing loss and bereavement. The article concludes with practice implications for social workers who may encounter older individuals with IDs and SIB.


Glaesser, R. S., & Perkins, E. A. (2013). Self-injurious behavior in older adults with intellectual disabilities. Social Work, 58(3), 213-221.  doi:10.1093/sw/swt018


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