Adaptive Assessments of Intellectual Disabilities

The purpose of an adaptive behavior assessment

Adaptive behavior assessment aims at assessing the emotional and social maturity of a child in comparison to his/her peers, along with practical life skills (“The diagnosis of intellectual disabilities,” 2020). The evaluation is done with the purpose of determining whether a person demonstrates sufficient capacity to function independently, adhering to the culturally established standards in society.

The adaptive behaviors and considerations

Virginia Department of Education (2014) defines three types of adaptive behaviors to take into account: 1) conceptual skills; 2) social skills; 3) practical skills, the details of which will be discussed later in the assignment. VDOE (2014) suggests considering that students with significant cognitive impairments have major problems with conceptual skills, transferring information across different settings. To talk about serious impairment, the result on the standardized adaptive behavior scales should be at least three standard deviations below the mean.

Adaptive assessments

According to “Tests of adaptive functioning” (2020), the most commonly used adaptive assessments include Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale (VABS), The Diagnostic Adaptive Behavior Scale (AAIDD, 2013), and Woodcock-Johnson Scales of Independent Behavior. First, VABS measures social skills of individuals, aged 0-19, by asking their primary caregivers or other people familiar to fill in a questionnaire, assessing communication, socialization, motor skills, and daily living skills.

Second, AAIDD evaluates adaptive behavioral skills – conceptual, social, and practical – to distinguish the amount of support needed for improved quality of life. Third, Woodcock-Johnson Scales of Independent Behavior assesses children’s independent behavior (“Tests of adaptive functioning,” 2020). My school district uses AAIDD assessment, sometimes combining it with the Supports Intensity Scale (AAIDD, 2004).

Types of skills

Adaptive assessments evaluate the so-called “life skills,” falling under the three categories: conceptual, social, and practical. As defined in “Adaptive behavior (life skills)” (2020), conceptual skills involve reading, computation, communication, and management of finances and time. Social skills may be referred to adhering to social norms and customs, obeying laws, and understanding motivations of other people. Practical life skills are defined by the scope of daily activities: feeding, dressing, navigating, bathing, and others (“Adaptive behavior (life skills),” 2020). Substantial limitations in one of the fields lead to the low adaptive behavior.

The DSM-5

The DSM-5 diagnosis of intellectual impairments requires the three following criteria to be satisfied: 1) deficits in intellectual functioning; 2) deficits in adaptive functioning; 3) problems occurring during the developmental period (“DSM-5 criteria,” 2020). All three aforementioned criteria should be met for the formal diagnosis.


Adaptive behavior (life skills). (2020). Web.

The diagnosis of intellectual disabilities. (2020). Web.

Diagnostic criteria for intellectual disabilities: DSM-5 criteria. (2020). Web.

Tests for adaptive functioning. (2020). Web.

Virginia Department of Education. (2014). Guidance document: VAAP participation criteria and the determination of significant cognitive disabilities. Web.

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ChalkyPapers. 2023. "Adaptive Assessments of Intellectual Disabilities." October 10, 2023.

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ChalkyPapers. "Adaptive Assessments of Intellectual Disabilities." October 10, 2023.