Patterns and predictors of adaptive skills in 2- to 7-year-old children with Down syndrome

Emily K. Schworer, Anna J. Esbensen, Vivian Nguyen, Lauren Bullard, Deborah J. Fidler, Lisa A. Daunhauer, Carolyn B. Mervis, Angela M. Becerra, Leonard Abbeduto, Angela John Thurman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: There is substantial variability in adaptive skills among individuals with Down syndrome. Few studies, however, have focused on the early developmental period or on the potential sources of variability in adaptive skills. This study characterizes adaptive skills in young children with Down syndrome and investigates child characteristics associated with adaptive skills. Methods: Participants were 44 children with Down syndrome ranging in age from 2.50 to 7.99 years (M = 4.66 years, SD = 1.46). The Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales-3 (VABS-3) Comprehensive Interview Form was used to assess adaptive behavior in the three core domains: socialization, daily living, and communication skills. Caregivers also reported on motor skills and autism spectrum disorder symptoms. Child cognitive abilities were assessed. Results: Analyses comparing mean standard score performance across the three VABS-3 core domains demonstrated significant differences between all pairs of domains, resulting in a group-level pattern of socialization > daily living > communication skills. At the individual level, 10 different patterns of relative strength and weakness were identified, with only 18% of participants evidencing significant differences between adaptive skill domain standard scores corresponding to the group-level pattern of significant differences. Child characteristics (cognitive abilities, motor skills, and autism spectrum disorder symptoms) were significantly associated with VABS-3 adaptive domain standard scores. Conclusion: These findings underscore the importance of individualizing intervention programs focused on improving the adaptive skills of young children with Down syndrome based on consideration of the child’s relative adaptive strengths and weaknesses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number18
JournalJournal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptive skills
  • ASD symptoms
  • Cognition
  • Down syndrome
  • Motor skills

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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