An adaptive response is a functional response to an environmental, sensory stimulus. This is the goal of sensory integration. Responding to a stimulus in a functional way allows a child to move forward and learn. A maladaptive response prevents learning and development, and limits a child’s ability to function in their environment.
If a child is walking outside and a fire engine drives by with sirens blaring, an adaptive response would be to cover their ears until the sirens are gone and then continuing on their way. A maladaptive response might be the child screaming and crying in response to the loud noise, and being unable to continue forward for an extended amount of time.