Adaptive Behavior (Life Skills)

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Life Skills

The second defining feature of intellectual disabilities (ID, formerly mental retardation) is the limited development of life skills.

  • These important skills enable us to live in a safe and socially responsible manner.
  • They are collectively referred to as adaptive functioning.
Life Skills

Adaptive Functioning

Adaptive functioning is affected by three basic skill sets:

  • Conceptual

    This includes reading, numbers, money, time, and communication skills.

  • Social

    These skills help us to get along well with others. These skills include understanding and following social rules and customs; obeying laws, and detecting the motivations of others in order to avoid victimization and deception.

  • Practical Life Skills

    These are the skills needed to perform the activities of daily living. This includes feeding, bathing, dressing, occupational skills, and navigational skills.

Standardized Testing

Problems in adaptive functioning are identified by using standardized tests.

  • These tests compare an individual's score with the average score for the general population.
  • Problems are indicated when a person's score is below the score of 97.5% of the population. However, some people may score above these levels and still meet the criteria for an intellectual disability.

In 2010, the Social Security Administration proposed changes to way intellectual disabilities would be defined and assessed.

  • There is now a greater emphasis on adaptive functioning.
  • These changes affect eligibility for social security disability benefits.

The assessment of adaptive functioning is very important. This is because it identifies the supports needed to help someone optimize their functioning. Supportive rehabilitation is included at the end of this article.

Additional Resources

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