The Importance Of Adaptive Behavior

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Adaptive behaviour has been an integral although sometimes unstated, part of the long history of mental retardation and its definition. In the 19th century, mental retardation was recognized principally in terms of a number of factors that included awareness and understanding of surroundings, ability to engage in regular economic and social life, dependence on others, the ability to maintain one’s basic health and safety, and individual responsibility (Brockley, 1999).
The assessment of adaptive behaviour became a formal part of the diagnostic nomenclature for mental retardation with the publication of the 1959 manual of the American Association of Mental Deficiency (Heber, 1959, distributed in 1961). The 1961 manual (Heber, 1961) discussed adaptive behaviour with respect to maturation, learning, and social adjustment. This framework, reiterated in 1983, described adaptive behaviour limitations consisting of “significant limitations in an individual’s effectiveness in meeting the standards of maturation, learning, personal independence, or social maturity that are expected for his or her age level and cultural group, as determined by clinical assessment and, usually, standardized scales” (Grossman, 1983).
The 1983 manual characterized the tasks or activities encompassed by adaptive behavior (and, social competence) as:
In infancy and early childhood: sensorimotor development, communication skills, self-help skills, socialization, and interaction with others;
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