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Diagnostic Adaptive Behavior Scale

AAIDD’s Diagnostic Adaptive Behavior Scale (DABS) provides a comprehensive standardized assessment of adaptive behavior. Designed for use with individuals from 4 to 21 years old, DABS provides precise diagnostic information around the cutoff point where an individual is deemed to have “significant limitations” in adaptive behavior. The presence of such limitations is one of the measures of intellectual disability.

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

  • 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

The DABS focuses on the critical ‘cut-off area’ for the purpose of ruling in or ruling out a diagnosis of intellectual disability or related developmental disability. Professionals likely to use it include school psychologists, forensic psychologists, clinical psychologists, psychometricians, social workers, occupational therapists, and pediatricians, as well as officials in disability-related government agencies.

The purpose of establishing a diagnosis of intellectual disability is to determine eligibility for:

  • Special education services
  • Home and community-based waiver services
  • Social Security Administration benefits
  • Specific treatment within the criminal justice system (e.g., In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that executing people with intellectual disability violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment)