This group of tests is one that causes a lot of confusion for parents. It is essential that you understand what these are and what they test. These are needed in New York State any time you look for help through one of the agencies that provide specialized services.

Adaptive Scales do not have anything to do with IQ. They are measures of what a person does in life. How well can they manage on their own?  Can they cook? Can they handle money? These are not tests that can be given in an office, but instead are questionnaires that are completed by people who interact with the patient regularly. Often, there are forms that can be used by teachers as well as caregivers. The profile that we get from these is only as good as the information we are given.

After all the information is gathered, the results are compared to people the patient’s age, so see how they compare.  There are usually four areas that are included: Communication, Socialization, Personal Care and Coping skills. The terms used can vary, but the skills are the same. The results are then compared to other test data for corroboration. For example, if a person is diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, we would expect that there would be delays in socialization skills. Sometimes, we find people with strong IQs who are unable to cope with daily life and as a result, score poorly on these tests. Daily living skills and IQ are two very different categories.

There are two major measures of adaptive skills.  One is the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale and the other is Adaptive Behavior Scale. These are similar and in New York State, they are both accepted in making determinations about services. These have a wide age range (from 2 ½ through adulthood).

When Do You Need adaptive behavior scales?

  • When you are trying to get services outside of school for your child.
  • When you are trying to make a decision about whether your child is able to live independently, go to college or even go to a sleep away camp.
  • These can be helpful when there is some question about a diagnosis and information about how the child’s difficulties have impacted daily life.
  • You can use this information when you are trying to plan for your child. What skills do you need to focus on, to improve his/her move toward independence.

Help for Parents

Sometimes, parents use these scales to help them have a clearer picture of what their child is actually doing. It is easy to get used to the household routine, without even noticing how much your child is not doing. Many parents have filled out these questionnaires and been shocked by the fact that their child is significantly delayed in independence.

These results can also help parents plan for the areas where they want to focus their attention, what skills they want their child to learn.

Don’t forget that these skills have more to do with life success that even IQ!


This blog post describes the ideas and opinions of its author and does not provide professional, psychological, or therapeutic advice. Any anecdotes and examples presented in this blog post are based on the experiences of real people, but names, identifying information ,and nonessential facts have been changed throughout to protect their privacy.