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What is the DABS?

The Diagnostic Adaptive Behavior Scale (DABS) is an assessment tool that provides a comprehensive standardized assessment of adaptive behavior. Designed for use with individuals from 4 to 21 years old, the DABS provides precise diagnostic information around the cutoff point where an individual is deemed to have “significant limitations” in adaptive behavior. The presence of such limitations is one of the criteria in diagnosing intellectual disability.

Adaptive behavior is the collection of conceptual, social, and practical skills that all people learn in order to function in their daily lives. The DABS measures adaptive behavior in these three domains:

  • Conceptual skills: literacy; self-direction; and concepts of number, money, and time
  • Social skills: interpersonal skills, social responsibility, self-esteem, gullibility, naïveté (i.e., wariness), social problem solving, following rules, obeying laws, and avoiding being victimized
  • Practical skills: activities of daily living (personal care), occupational skills, use of money, safety, health care, travel/transportation, schedules/routines, and use of the telephone

The DABS focuses on the critical ‘cut-off area’ for the purpose of ruling in or ruling out a diagnosis of intellectual disability or related developmental disability. Professionals likely to use it include school psychologists, forensic psychologists, clinical psychologists, psychometricians, social workers, occupational therapists, and pediatricians, as well as officials in disability-related government agencies.

Purchase the DABS Manual and Forms in the AAIDD Bookstore

DABS Users Manual

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Scoring the DABS

Because the DABS relies on Item Response Theory (IRT), it cannot be scored by hand and requires a specially-developed computer program for scoring the tool. AAIDD's online scoring platform for the DABS can be easily used for a nominal fee; the platform provides users with a report when each assessment is scored.

 Score DABS Online


The DABS authors are Marc J. Tassé, Robert L. Schalock, David Thissen, Giulia Balboni, Henry (Hank) Bersani, Jr., Sharon A. Borthwick-Duffy, Scott Spreat, Keith F. Widaman, and Dalun Zhang.

Learn More About
Intellectual Disability (ID)

The Definition of ID
Frequently Asked Questions About ID