activities and materials used in most early childhood classrooms are designed
to meet the needs of many children with or without disabilities. When
they do not meet the specific needs of a child, they can be adapted or
expanded to accommodate that child's individual needs. The purpose of
an adaptation is to assist children in compensating for intellectual,
physical, or behavioral challenges. They allow children to use their current
skills while promoting the acquisition of new skills. Adaptations can
make the difference between a child merely being present in the class
and a child being actively involved.
Developing adaptations and accommodations for a child with special needs
is a continuous process that involves each child's collaborative team.
The first step is to assess the child's abilities and the environment
where the child will be spending time. Once the goals and objectives are
identified and expectations for the child's participation in that environment
are established, the team selects or creates adaptations and accommodations
that address those needs. Once implemented, their effectiveness should
be assessed on an ongoing basis and revised, as needed.
To meet the specific needs of a child, changes may need to be made in
one or more of the following instructional conditions. Remember, when
the child can participate in an activity, as it is, no changes need to
- Instructional groupings or arrangements - For any given activity
there are a number of instructional arrangements from which to choose:
large groups, small groups, cooperative learning groups, peer partners,
one-to-one instruction, and/or independent tasks
- Lesson format - The format of a lesson may be altered to meet
the needs of a child by including more opportunities for whole class
discussions, games, role playing, activity-based lessons, experiential
lessons, demonstrations, and/or thematic lesson organization.
- Teaching strategies - A change in teaching strategies can
influence a child's ability to participate.
Examples include: simplifying
directions, addition of visual information, use of concrete materials/examples,
sequencing learning tasks from easy to hard, repeated opportunities
to practice skills, changes in the schedule of reinforcement, elaboration
or shaping of responses, verbal prompts and/or direct physical assistance.
- Curricular goals and learning outcomes - To match the needs
of a child within the context of an activity, it may be appropriate
to individualize the learning objectives. This can often be accomplished
using the same activities and materials. If children are working on
a classification concept by sorting blocks, a child with a disability
could participate in the same activity but focus of reaching, grasping,
and releasing skills.
- Adaptations to the method for responding - Sometimes children
may understand a concept yet need an adaptation in the way they demonstrate
that knowledge. Use of augmentative communication systems, eye gaze,
and demonstrations may better allow a child to demonstrate his/her skills.
- Environmental conditions - The environmental arrangement is
an important aspect of any early childhood setting. Changes in lighting
noise level, visual and auditory input, physical arrangement of the
room or equipment, and accessibility of materials are important considerations.
- Modification of instructional materials - It is sometimes necessary
to physically adapt instructional or play materials to facilitate a
child's participation. Materials can be physically adapted by increasing:
stability (Dycem or Velcro on materials), ease of handling (adding handles,
making materials larger), accessibility (developing a hand splint to
hold materials, attaching an elastic cord or string to objects so they
can be easily moved or retrieved), visual clarity or distinctiveness
(adding contrast or specialized lighting), or size.
- Level of personal assistance - A child's need for assistance
may range from periodic spot checks to close continuous supervision.
Assistance may vary from day to day and be provided by adults or peers.
- An alternative activity - This curricular adaptation should
be used as a last choice when the above conditions cannot be used to
meet a child's needs.
Accommodation Examples from Inclusive Programs
Montessori School (Meet with Jacob)
Futures Preschool (Emily's Accommodations Planning)
Ben's Preschool Program (Accommodations in the Classroom)
Elementary School (Classroom Adaptations)
Curricular Adaptations: Accommodating the Instructional Needs of Diverse
Learners in the Context of General Education. (1993). Kansas State Board
Thompson, B., Wickham, D., Wegner, J., Ault, M., Shanks, P., & Reinertson,
B. (1993). Handbook for the inclusion of young children with severe disabilities.
Lawrence, KS: Learner Managed Designs, Inc.
Villa, R. A. & Thousands, J.S., Ed. (1995). Creating An Inclusive
School. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, VA.