Find out what adaptive skills are, why they are necessary, and where these skills are needed.
“Who needs adaptive skills? I easily adapt from one task to the next.” Parents can easily think like this, especially if they are unaware of what adaptive skills are and why they are necessary.
For children on the autism spectrum, things might not be so clear, and they might need assistance with adapting to change.
There are many daily tasks where adaptive skills are needed. In this article, we will discuss what adaptive skills are and why they are necessary, and we’ll focus on and talk about scenarios where these skills are needed.
What is an adaptive skill?
Adaptive skills are those skills an individual needs to be able to:
- adapt and adjust to one’s environment
- use when learning new things
- meet challenges throughout the day
- be able to utilize self-direction and self-management in different instances
When adaptive skills are learned and utilized, they can become a more concrete adaptive behavior, which the individual can use to function daily.
What is adaptive behavior, and how can it help?
Adaptive behavior refers to these three main components:
1. Social skills
These skills include the ability of an individual to be able to develop and maintain social interaction between themselves and other people, understand and respond to nonverbal language and other social cues, use critical thinking skills, understand and handle criticism, know how to follow the rules, obey rules and laws, learn how to stand up for oneself and use other social problem-solving skills.
2. Practical skills
Practical skills are considered the main daily life skills like self-care, the ability to maintain part-time or full-time employment; money handling and management skills, knowledge of safety and safety practices, use of public transportation; the ability to set up appointments, scheduling, and other routines; as well as the ability to properly talk on and use the telephone in different scenarios.
3. Conceptual skills
These conceptual skills include skills needed in a school setting like reading and comprehension, having the drive and the ability to self-direct, and understanding math skills like telling time, money management, etc.
Is adaptive behavior important?
As environments change and technology improves, adaptive behaviors are those that have been learned and can help a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to improve their understanding of both social and daily practical skills they utilize in everyday life. They need these behaviors to respond and excel in their environments.
An example that these behaviors could help would be changing from a public school setting to homeschooling. If a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder attends public school, maybe even in a special education setting, it can be different when they start homeschooling.
Adaptive behaviors help the child cope with the changes between the environments and have an opportunity for a more successful outcome.
15 scenarios in which children will need adaptive skills
1. Communication skills
The communication skills needed to function in daily life can range from having a leisurely conversation about the weather that week to understanding and communicating through written communication that others will understand.
2. Being actively engaged in community services
Community services can range from fun activities like enjoying the local farmers market and having a plan and budget to locating and setting up personal care services that the individual may need through their community.
3. Ability to develop and maintain relationships
Plutonic, romantic, business and familial relationships are a few to note when discussing developing and maintaining relationships. Each type of relationship differs and requires the ability to acknowledge the difference and adhere to what is expected within that relationship.
4. Ability to plan activities
The ability to plan an activity and implement the plan is important in many aspects. It can help with homework, after-school activities, etc.
5. Organizational skills
Knowing how to keep organized physically and electronically can help the individual maintain their life, including keeping track of important dates and paperwork, maintaining a clean space to work and live, making plans based on the importance of the activity, and more.
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6. Working memory
Working memory helps the individual with their learning and educational endeavors. It can help improve functional academics, such as math skills and literature, and develop other skills needed to progress in their studies.
With developing and improving self-awareness, the individual will better understand their emotions and the emotions of others, how they are feeling, and what they may need, whether it is water, something to eat, or another part of their self-care regimen.
When it comes to setting goals and aspirations, self-directed people will have an idea of where they want to go and be able to break that down into doable steps to complete.
9. Social skills
Social skills are needed to function in daily life and require an individual to communicate so that others can understand and reciprocate conversation in an easy-to-understand manner to keep the conversation going.
10. Daily tasks
These tasks can include daily chores that need to be done to keep a tidy place, what needs to be done to get to school, what is expected during and after school, and what steps need to be taken to care for themselves and others.
11. Everyday life skills
Some life skills are so second nature some people don’t need to think about them, like getting dressed before going into public. In contrast, others can be taught and learned, like using public transportation and creating and maintaining a livable budget plan.
12. Work standards
Depending on where an individual is employed, they will have a set of standards they expect their employees to maintain. Other work standards go with most jobs, such as treating coworkers, employers, and customers with kindness and respect, doing their best, showing up on time, and being the person with whom they want to interact.
Self-care is so important and can be difficult for some people on the spectrum, especially those with sensory processing difficulties. Finding alternative ways through different therapies or talking to a doctor can help an individual come up with ways that can help them be able to shower regularly, clip their nails, brush their teeth and hair, etc.
14. Personal responsibility
This is a self-driven response to what the person believes they are and should be responsible for. Examples include knowing and following rules, handling any mess they may have made, completing homework or chores, etc.
15. Flexible thinking
This can be difficult for some autistic children who have a more logical way of thinking and are more rigid in how they perceive their environment. A doctor can assess the individual and come up with a plan or refer them to a practitioner to help them further develop a more flexible way of thinking, whether for daily tasks, school, or other.
Adaptive skills are needed for autistic children to develop further skills that can benefit their future. Parents, teachers, doctors, and practitioners can also help these individuals by supporting them and helping them follow through with exercises and other ways to develop these skills.
There are plenty of ways to do this, and it is always suggested to talk to the child’s doctor to discuss ways to support the child.
- American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. (2023). Adaptive Behavior. https://www.aaidd.org/intellectual-disability/definition/adaptive-behavior
- American Psychological Association. (2023). APA Dictionary of Psychology. https://dictionary.apa.org/adaptive-skills
- Anthony, L., Dudley, K., Kenworthy, L., Pugliese. C., Strang, J., & Wallace, G. (2016). Increasing Adaptive Behavior Skill Deficits From Childhood to Adolescence in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Role of Executive Function. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4433442