II.C.5: Adaptive or Self-Help Development
The term adaptive behavior is not always clearly understood by everyone. It generally refers to a range of behaviors a child acquires during the developmental process to function independently. Subdomains defined by the DEC Task Force on Recommended Practices (DEC, 1993) include: self care, community self-sufficiency, personal-social responsibility and social adjustment. Further delineation results in a longer list of dressing/undressing, eating/feeding, toileting and grooming, appropriate behavior in different settings, adjusting to new situations, attending appropriately, etc. Several approaches are used to assess adaptive behavior including developmental scales (child's behavior is compared to same-age peers), criterion referenced lists (a child's behavior is judged against a predetermined level of mastery) and ecological inventories (assessment of the environment in which the behavior occurs). While many practitioners can collect information about a child's adaptive behavior development, it is most often included in the assessment completed by the school psychologist. A child's adaptive behavior skills should be commensurate with his or her level of cognitive functioning. Not only is it required before a diagnosis of mental retardation can be made, but it is good practice.
Examples of measures of adaptive behavior include: