Middle Childhood Intervention 6-12:

Adaptive Skills

Adaptive Skills

Children at this age are expected to perform a lot of tasks by themselves, both at home and at school. Most children have chores at home. Such chores include keeping their rooms tidy and helping keep the rest of the house tidy as well (Fig. 1). At school, they are expected to go to the bathroom, eat, dress and undress on their own, or with minimal help. Adaptive skills are very important because they can draw a lot of negative attention if they are not performed well. It is very important to make sure children’s adaptive skills are strong.


Figure 1. Cooking with mom

Some signs of delay in the adaptive domain include:

  • not knowing that what we wear depends on the weather (that is, fewer layers in the summer and more layers in the winter);
  • being unable to get undressed independently;
  • being unable to move independently or with minimal help;
  • difficulty tying one’s shoelaces (for ages 7 and 8) (Fig. 2);
  • wearing the left shoe on the right foot and vice versa;
  • difficulty buttoning large buttons, or buttoning large buttons in the incorrect button holes (Fig. 3);
  • difficulty fastening snaps;
  • difficulty zipping up a zipper, even if it has been connected at the bottom;
  • not knowing how to brush hair on their own;
  • difficulty brushing their teeth and rinsing;
  • requiring a lot of help when washing their face and/or hands;
  • difficulty holding eating utensils properly;
  • not knowing which public washroom to use (girls versus boys’ washroom);
  • not looking both ways when crossing the street (closer to age 8);

tying shoelaces

Figure 2. Tying shoelaces


Figure 3. Large buttons


Adaptive skills are influenced by the culture in which the child lives. In some cultures, children below the age of 7 are not expected to dress or undress on their own, and they are often given help when cleaning up, whether they need it or not. It is therefore very important to take the child’s culture into account, when determining whether or not a child has a delay in the adaptive area.

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