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Adaptive skills come from adaptive behavior, or the conceptual, social, and practical skills that individuals have learned and use in their daily lives. These skills, in addition to Intelligence Quotient (IQ) scores, are assessed by professionals in diagnosing an intellectual disability. Formerly called mental retardation, an intellectual disabilityis diagnosed when a person scores between 70 and 75 on an IQ test. The average IQ test score is 100. To assess adaptive behavior, professionals compare certain skills of the individual to those around his or her age. An individual is usually diagnosed with an intellectual disability when he or she has limitations in two or more adaptive skill areas.
So, what are adaptive skills? These ten skill areas include:
- Self-Care – bathing, dressing, grooming, and feeding one’s self;
- Communication Skills – understanding and using verbal and nonverbal language;
- Self-Direction – problem solving, exercising choice, initiating and planning activities;
- Social Skills – maintaining interpersonal relationships, understanding emotions and social cues, understanding fairness and honesty, obeying rules and laws;
- Leisure Skills – taking responsibility for one’s own activities, having the ability to participate in the community;
- Home or School Living – housekeeping, cooking, doing laundry, maintaining living space;
- Functional Academics – using reading, writing, and math skills in everyday life;
- Community Use – shopping, using public transportation, using community services;
- Work – ability to maintain part-time or full-time employment, either competitive or sheltered, ability to work under supervision, cooperate with coworkers, be reliable and punctual, and meet work standards, and;
- Health and Safety – ability to protect one’s self, responding to health problems.
These children have special needs are are quite capable of learning, just at a slower pace. A child with this type of disability should be encouraged to be independent with help from parents in dressing, grooming, and feeding him or herself. Assign chores with the child’s age and abilities in mind. Demonstrate how to do a task and break it down into smaller steps. Give instructions on at a time and help when assistance is needed. Frequent feedback and praise for a task well done will build a child’s abilities and confidence.
Parents and teachers can work together to increase adaptive skills by sharing information about what a child is learning. If a student is learning about money at school, parents should enrich that learning at home by taking the child shopping with them. Talk about the cost of items, help the child count the money to pay, and then assist in counting the change.
Teachers should also learn as much as possible about intellectual disability. If a teacher is not on the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) team, he should obtain a copy of the IEP. Individualized educational goals, as well as services and accommodations the student should receive, will be listed. Teachers should consult the school’s inclusion specialist to learn how to address the student’s IEP goals in their classrooms, provide modifications and accommodations, and identify teaching effective methods.
With concrete instruction and guided practice in adaptive skills, children with an intellectual disability can learn to take care of themselves.These skills, along with the proper support, will allow them to lead independent, fulfilling lives.
- National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities. (n.d.). Intellectual disability (formerly mental retardation). Retrieved June 3, 2010, from www.nichcy.org/Disabilities/Specific/pages/IntellectualDisability.aspx
- Baroff, G.S. & Olley, L.G. (1999). Mental retardation: nature, cause, and management. Retrieved June 3, 2010, from books.google.com/books