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How to Enhance your Adaptive ​Behavior Evaluations 

Thursday, April 14, 2022
How to Enhance your Adaptive ​Behavior Evaluations 

By Rebecca Stanborough

This article was reviewed by John C. Williams, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Senior Project Director at WPS.

Adaptive behavior evaluations are a critical step in selecting the most effective interventions, training, and treatments for people with intellectual disabilities, autism, and other developmental, learning, social–behavioral, and health conditions. In this article, you’ll learn more about best practices for enhancing your adaptive behavior evaluations.  

What is Adaptive Behavior? 

Adaptive behaviors are the practical, everyday skills people need to function in their environments, take care of themselves effectively and independently, and interact with other people. Adaptive behaviors allow people to meet changing demands and expectations in various settings and situations.  

What Domains Do Adaptive Behaviors Typically Involve? 

The primary domains tested in adaptive skills evaluations include: 

  • conceptual skills (problem-solving, communication, academics, money, time, self-direction, etc.​); 
  • social skills (interpersonal skills, gullibility, naiveté, social problem-solving, etc.​); and 
  • practical skills (self-care, domestic skills, work skills, safety, health care, etc.).

An accurate and comprehensive assessment often leads to better outcomes throughout an individual’s life. 

How to Enhance your Adaptive ​Behavior Evaluations 

Adaptive behaviors are often complex and interwoven. Below are some of the best practices to enhance your adaptive behavior evaluations:  

  • Include adaptive behavior evaluations in your assessments, especially when you’re collecting data for individuals with learning, behavior, or social difficulties. Consider evaluating behaviors such as interacting with peers, taking care of personal needs, learning new skills, and general functioning in the home, school, and community.​ 
  • Ensure that your evaluation is comprehensive. Include information from multiple respondents. Evaluate different domains in varied environments using multiple methods and sources of information.​
  • Don’t rely on a single procedure or test as the sole or even primary criterion for determining a diagnosis, classification, or eligibility for services. Ratings scales are important, but so are interviews, observations, and even conversations with patients or clients. 
  • Interpret why scores may differ from test to test for the same individual.  IQ test scores may differ widely from scores on adaptive behavior or academic tests, for example. It’s important to understand why those differences exist. 
  • Explore the many factors that can impact a person’s scores on any type of assessment. 
  • Consider the advantages and limitations of different ratings scales as you interpret results, evaluate their validity, and make decisions based on them. 
  • Stress adaptive skill improvement as an important intervention and treatment goal. Many disorders and health conditions lead to difficulties in functional daily living skills, and interventions to improve these skills are important.

What Adaptive Behavior Evaluations Are Available at WPS?  

The Adaptive Behavior Assessment System, 3rd Edition (ABAS-3) allows you to assess adaptive skills across an individual’s lifespan. It is available as a teacher or parent rating scale for ages birth through 21 years, and as self-report form for adults ages 16 and up. It is particularly useful for evaluating those with developmental delays, autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, learning disabilities, neuropsychological disorders, and sensory or physical impairments.   

Can You Conduct Adaptive Behavior Evaluations Virtually? 

Many WPS evaluations can be conducted virtually. Please refer to our Remote Assessment Guidelines or contact WPS Assessment Consultants for more information.  

Where can I learn more about enhancing Adaptive Behavior Evaluations?

This article is based on the webinar “Enhancing Your Adaptive ​Behavior Evaluations,” presented by Patti L. Harrison, PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of Alabama. Watch the webinar here

Learn More: Adaptive Behavior Assessment System, 3rd Edition (ABAS-3; Harrison & Oakland, 2015) 


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