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Adaptive Behavior

Intellectual Disability


What is Adaptive Behavior?


Adaptive behavior is the collection of conceptual, social, and practical skills that all people learn in order to function in their daily lives:

  • Conceptual skills: literacy; self-direction; and concepts of number, money, and time
  • Social skills: interpersonal skills, social responsibility, self-esteem, gullibility, naïveté (i.e., wariness), social problem solving, following rules, obeying laws, and avoiding being victimized
  • Practical skills: activities of daily living (personal care), occupational skills, use of money, safety, health care, travel/transportation, schedules/routines, and use of the telephone

Why is Adaptive Behavior an Important Concept?

Adaptive behavior is a different concept than intelligence. Adaptive behaviors are learned behaviors that reflect an individual's social and practical competence to meet the demands of everyday living.

To meet the demands of their environments, each person must learn a set of skills. As environments change, people must learn new skills in order continue to meet the environmental demands.

Making a phone (or video) call is an example of adaptive behavior that changed over time. The skills needed to make a call today are very different from the skills that were required 20 years ago.

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