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Assessment and Interventions for Adaptive behavior Deficits

Adaptive Behavior Benefits for Special Needs Students

Adaptive behavior refers to a person’s actions as a part of their performance of everyday activities, measured against societal expectations for the age and cultural background of the individual. Behavior is considered optimal when the individual can function successfully with minimal challenges. In assessing adaptive behavior, professionals use a variety of instruments to chart behaviors and compare the functional abilities of the subject to others in the same age group. Common examples of adaptive behaviors in the natural environment include:

  • Cognitive skills
  • Communication
  • Daily living skills
  • Leisure
  • Self-help
  • Social skills

Assessing Adaptive Behavior

Assessment of adaptive behavior as a part of an overall evaluation for deficits in intellectual ability requires an evaluation of the specific skills needed to function in the present environment as well as necessary transitions for upcoming environments.  Commonly used rating scales for adaptive behavior assessment include:

Behavior Rating Scales

Behavior rating scales are used to review what an individual actually does rather than what they are capable of doing. When rating forms are obtained from multiple respondents across settings and from various perspectives, the results are quite reliable. There are several advantages to this type of assessment:

  • It provides a comprehensive evaluation of a multitude of behaviors and skills
  • It involves critical informants in the process
  • The assessment results in reliable information about abilities and frequency of observed behavior
  • It focuses on skills demonstrated in natural settings
  • And it includes feedback from multiple perspectives

Teaching Adaptive Behavior

Students with intellectual disabilities demonstrate intellectual challenges in combination with adaptive behavior deficits. Helping students with intellectual delays to improve adaptive behavior skills looks very similar to helping all students to sharpen their own behavior skills. All students can benefit from learning to cope with the demands of a classroom, developing language skills, growing emotionally, developing interpersonal relationships, and caring for personal needs. Teachers can assist by providing support or direct instruction in several areas:

  • Interpersonal relationship development: Learning to work well with others, recognize and respond appropriately to social cues, practice socially appropriate language, develop social awareness, and respond to directions and cues from an authority figure.
  • School adjustment: Learning to balance educational tasks, following directions, asking questions, managing time, and organizing work.
  • Social emotional learning: Embracing social interaction, decreasing social withdrawal, and demonstrating work motivation by decreasing instances of idleness, tardiness, and avoidance.
  • Language development: Demonstrating appropriate vocal inflection and modulation, active listening, expression of ideas, understanding of directions, and the ability to communicate wants and needs.
  • Personal care: Practicing effective hygiene, the ability to dress independently, care for personal property, and the ability to move around from place to place.

An individual’s adaptive behavior is a critical component in determining overall intellectual functioning. Behavior rating scales and the appropriate steps to address deficits should be implemented by a clinical professional as part of a comprehensive evaluation and intervention program. For more information about adaptive behavior, visit WPS.

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