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Original Research Articles

Is Adaptive Behaviour too Normal to be Normally Distributed?


Scott Spreat

Woods Research & Evaluation Institute at Woods Services in Langhorne, PA, US
About Scott

Scott Spreat holds a doctorate in Educational Psychology from Temple University, and he is a licensed psychologist.   He has held a number of administrative and clinical positions in the intellectual disability field, currently serving as President of Woods Services Research & Evaluation Institute. He also functions as Financial Officer for the Imlaystown Veterinary Clinic.

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Purpose: This study attempts to ascertain if adaptive behaviour complies with the characteristics of a normal distribution.

Methods: Adaptive behaviour data collected from two large state samples of 2900 were reviewed to determine the shape of their distributions. A smaller convenience sample of 37 adults without intellectual disability was similarly reviewed. 

Results: Findings suggest that the shape of the distribution of adaptive behaviour increasingly deviates from normal as cognitive abilities increase.  

Conclusions/Implications: It does not appear that adaptive behaviour is normally distributed. This will impact the diagnosis of intellectual disability because while IQ scores two standard deviations below the mean reliably cut off about 2% of the population, a similar cut-off cannot be assumed for adaptive behaviour.

How to Cite: Spreat, S., 2017. Is Adaptive Behaviour too Normal to be Normally Distributed?. Disability, CBR & Inclusive Development, 28(3), pp.71–79. DOI:
Published on 27 Nov 2017.


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