Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders


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Mattie LJ, Loveall SJ, Channell MM and Rodgers DB (2023) Perspectives on adaptive functioning and intellectual functioning measures for intellectual disabilities behavioral research. Front. Psychol. 14:1084576. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1084576


Open access.


Introduction: Intellectual disability (ID) is a significant limitation in both intellectual ability and adaptive functioning, but many studies of participants with ID only include a measure of overall intellectual functioning when describing their samples. The purpose of this perspective article was to provide a starting point for future research regarding the utility of including measures of both intellectual and adaptive functioning in research focused on ID. In this article, we discuss the differences and similarities between the constructs of intellectual and adaptive functioning, how they are measured, and the benefits of using both measures to describe participant abilities. Data are presented to demonstrate that intellectual and adaptive functioning measures capture separate but related skills in a sample of individuals with ID (i.e., children with Down syndrome [DS]; the leading genetic cause of ID).

Methods: Thirty children with DS (7–31 months) were administered the Mullen Scales of Early Learning and their mothers were interviewed using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales.

Results: At the group level, Vineland and Mullen composite scores were relatively normally distributed and positively correlated. At the individual level, a concordance correlation coefficient indicated moderate agreement between Vineland and Mullen composite scores.

Discussion: Although many children showed consistency between measures, others did not. Our discussion and findings, though preliminary, highlight that intellectual and adaptive functioning are separate but related skills and that there are benefits to including both measures when describing samples with ID. We discuss considerations for including adaptive functioning measures to enhance future research on individuals with ID.