Friday, September 11, 2009

Dr. Stephen Greenspan guest comment post: Response to Dr. Judd re: adaptive behavior

Dr. Stephen Greenspan posted a lengthy response comment to Dr. Judd's comment post (re: the original Switzky & Greenspan adaptive behavior chapter post I made-----hope that makes sense and is not another "whose on first" bit). Dr. Greenspan's response can be seen under "comments" at the original Switzky & Greenspan AB chapter post I made. Given that I took Dr. Judd's long comment and turned it into a guest post (with his permission), I'm doing the same for Dr. Greenspan's comments.

Stephen Greenspan said...

I appreciate the kind comments (which I understand are in a guest blog by Dr. Ted Judd) on the chapter “lessons from Atkins” that appeared in WHAT IS MENTAL RETARDATION edited by Harvey Switzky and myself. Unfortunately those lessons do not appear to have been learned. The main point in that chapter is that adaptive behavior as applied in court settings has turned out to be a nightmare, because of the failure to ground it in the notion of “everyday intelligence”. This is a point I have been making in print since 1979, but Atkins experience has proved me more correct than I realized. In Indiana court decisions for example, “adaptive behavior” is frequently described as “adaptation” and any behavior that a defendant engages in which meet a basic need (an example given was eating out of a garbage can when hungry) is used as evidence of normal functioning. Then of course there are the ridiculous “Briseno factors” in Texas, in which their high court came up with a list of adaptive behaviors (such as any evidence of planning) that bear little or no resemblance to mild ID as we know it. What we need is to come up with a notion of “adaptive age” (and eating out of a garbage can would I think be at a pre-toddler—or German Shepherd-- adaptive age equivalent) and get across the notion of adaptive behavior as involving problem-solving at a more abstract level (such as understanding when an interrogator assuring you that confessing is in your interest is being deceptive). The forthcoming AAIDD manual (which I understand is likely to become known as “the green book”) basically just changes MR to ID, makes a few format improvements, but keeps the same primary emphasis on IQ and retains a construct of adaptive behavior that lacks any connection to “intelligence” broadly defined. My self-assigned task has been to try to find aspects of adaptive behavior deficit (such as “gullibility” and “foolish action”) that are more intellectually-grounded and that could be considered universal diagnostic indicators of ID (as framed by the red/ green books, there is no aspect of adaptive behavior which is central to the ID construct). I am working on a paper (invited by AAIDD classification committee chair Robert Schalock) that elaborates on all the reasons why I think the green book missed the boat (I will preview it as a guest blog here, by kind invitation of Dr. McGrew). Chief among these (which has profound implications for Atkins cases) is that AAIDD missed the opportunity to define the construct more broadly, to include the many people with brain-based disorders who fit the behavioral phenotype for ID but have IQ scores that are a little too high. (Harvey and I wrote our chapter very early in our Atkins experiences, and we naively wrote that attorneys in these cases do not make a big deal out of one or two IQ points. We have of course course learned that everything is disputed, especially one or two IQ points). I am honored that AAIDD cites me as providing the theoretical framework for the model of adaptive behavior but I need to point out that what I had in mind was a tripartite model of “adaptive intelligence” (which cause adaptive behavior to fade away) and and not continuing to view adaptive behavior as some vague add-on construct that involves such things as “has good breath” (an item on the ABAS-2)--better would be “understands the social and physical risks of having bad breath.”

Steve Greenspan (for my recent paper on “foolish action”, click on

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