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Meanings of Intelligence and Adaptive Behavior Essay

The learning of new information and the mental ability for an individual to apply reasoning or calculation and perception of relationships defines one’s intelligence. Retrieving and storing information in the general mental capacity, as well as adjusting to language fluency is also perceived as intelligence. So, intelligence is not only the learning and understanding of new information but it is the adaptation to that information being presented. The intellectual disability of a student is determined by the limitations the individual has in their intellectual functioning. Mental retardation is a below average intellectual functioning that exists due to the limitations with adaptive skills. These adaptive skills include social skills, academic skills, communication, and daily living skills, among others.

There are different teaching strategies an educator can use to address the needs of students with intellectual disabilities. The basic life skills of a child should be assessed first as these skills are most important to maintain a certain quality of life. These skills such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, grooming, and others should be assessed. The learning environment for these students should be predicated around these skills on a daily basis so they are implemented throughout the learning process. As these skills develop the students will be able to generalize these skills in their home environment. As an educator, it is easier for these students to grasp these skills if they are simplified in sequential steps that are measurable for the learner to understand each step accordingly. For example, the first step for a male student going to bathroom would be to unbutton his pants.

Then after the duty is complete flushing the toilet and pulling up their pants. From their turning on the water from the sink, pressing the soap and scrubbing their hands properly are next. After washing their hands they should dry them with paper towels, throw the towels in the trash, then turn the light off when leaving the bathroom. These simple steps should be done at home also, so communicating these steps to their caregivers enhances the skill level of the child.

These techniques should be monitored closely and consistency with them should prove increased confidence by each student. Students with intellectual disabilities are slower learners so patience by those working with them and consistency is important. For students with severe mental retardation, instruction should emphasize on various motion exercises to enhance the adoption of basic skills (Baker & Aunsworth, 2004). The assessment of students with intellectual disabilities is a difficult task as there are problems facing the reliability and validity of the results. The first issue pertaining to the assessing of these students lies with the criticizing of cultural differences in the evaluation process and the insensitivity that may lead to misdiagnosis. The misdiagnosis or mislabeling goes hand in hand as the mislabeling leads to the wrong diagnosis.

The administering persons of these assessments should consider certain ethical issues and should use the proper evaluating instruments so student self-esteem is not affected. Specific characteristics of mental retardation are apparent for some students depending on the degree or severity of the disability. In most cases students with mental retardation and intellectual disabilities require some assistance for the rest of their lives; however the aide varies with the severity of each individual disability. These students with severe mental disabilities, or retardation, have difficulty with motor skills and communicating as well. Some of these children have mobility issues and may need assistance from walkers or wheelchairs.

Therefore, the basic life skills that are essential to everyday living are necessary to develop within the classroom environment as well as at home. The abstract information and reasoning skills are lacking so these children must be able to develop the basic life skills to gain a better quality of life. Additionally, these categories of learners most often than not exhibit common syndromes like down syndrome, which is a big challenge to their intellectual capacity as well (Balla & Ziegler, 1983). These children need special education and special services to help maintain daily life skills and develop these skills to work towards independent living.

The majority of students with mild retardation may need limited support services however their communication skills are delayed and their academic performance is behind when compared to the average student at that grade level. The cognitive abilities of these students are affected due to the developmental delays. The complexity of information and reasoning skills are severely low and abstract reasoning is usually absent. Educators must be consistent and repetitive with instruction to over-emphasize the skill or concept being taught. Teacher attention to each individual student is essential during instruction as each student needs more attention than the average learner.

The low attention span of these students may be addressed through adaptive behavior to enhance their learning. Different teaching strategies and techniques may help keep the students engaged in the lesson. As educators we need to gather as much information as we can on the child, including previous IEP’s, interviews, and data from previous teachers to gain a better understanding of the child’s disability. Along with that, teacher and parent communication, involvement, are necessary to implement daily life skills and to give the child a better quality of life.

ID is characterized by intellectual functioning which falls below average. The condition is accompanied with limitations in adaptive skills such as communication, social and academic skills (Huberty & Koller & TenBrink 1980). To determine what students are struggling and may need support, intelligence and adaptive behavior are required to provide specific programs for these children to succeed in school as well as society. Adaptive behavior is the age-appropriate behaviors each child should obtain to independently function with daily living. Therefore, adaptive behavior is an integral part of the school environment as students with mental retardation, from mild to severe, needs these behaviors and proper skills to increase their quality of life.


Balla, D. & Ziegler, E. (1983). Mental retardation, the developmental-difference Controversy. New York, USA: Routledge publishers.

Baker, P. & Aunsworth, P. (2004). Understanding mental retardation. Jackson MS, USA: Univ. Press of Mississippi publishers.

Huberty, T., Koller, J., and Tenbrink, T. (1980). Adaptive behavior in the definition of mental retardation, Exceptional Children 46: 256-261.

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