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Appropriate Lesson Modifications for Children with Significant Disabilities

written by: jenniferterry • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 9/11/2012

The IDEA mandates all children are taught in their least restrictive environment. For many this means a general education classroom with supports. Modifying your lesson plan for children with significant disabilities can be challenging. This article will make that task easier.

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    Identify the Needs of the Student

    If the child is new to you, review the child's Individualized Educational Plan to develop a sense of his or her capabilities and areas of need. Learn how the disability impacts their education. This will give you a place to start for the first week or so. During this time you can assess the child engaging with what you have prepared and identify other ways to modify your plans.

    Consider the materials needed for the child. The need for durability should be considered as well. If the child mouths objects or tears papers you will need to go durable. Ideas for durable working materials include using dry erase boards instead of paper, using heavy plastics instead of paper shapes, laminate books, laminate papers that will be used several times, use markers or pens instead of pencils.

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    Identify the Skills

    What are the child's capabilities? A child with significant disabilities can be limited in motor skill as well as comprehension. To modify a project you must consider: How will the child perform and how will I measure his performance?

    Can you broaden his or her capabilities with assistive technology? Anytime you broaden the child's capabilities, your job modifying lessons becomes easier, most importantly the child benefits.

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    Identify the Interest

    Typically a child with a significant disability will have a short attention span or a hard to gain attention. Identifying and using their special interest will help to gain and hold his attention.

    If they have a special interest in dolls, clothes, or trains incorporate these items into the modifications as much as possible.

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    A Modified Lesson Plan for Fractions

    A lesson plan to teach basic fractions to a student with significant disabilities can utilize templates cut from plastic colored page dividers and heavy board such as cardboard or even wall paneling cut into pieces.

    To make the templates, cut circles from different colors of plastics. One circle will be left whole. Another circle will be cut in half, another will be cut in thirds and the last circle will be cut into fourths.

    Next, take your heavy board and draw a circle with hash marks to match each of the templates. Draw one circle per board so the child is not distracted or confused by another circle. The child will be encouraged to observe how the halves (fourths, thirds) join together to make up the whole circle. They can then participate by placing the templates onto the drawings.

    You can decide if you want to use different colors within the circle to highlight the individual pieces. One thought, the child may confuse the color with the term depending on cognitive level. This is why one color per circle is recommended.

    How to adapt this to a special interest? Does the child like clothes? Instead of cutting circles, teach and reinforce these concepts with a dress cut from the template. Cut one dress in half, one in quarters, one in thirds. Perhaps the drawing to lay the dress out will be a person instead of a circle. The same is true for most any other object the child may have an interest in.

    If the special interest is a television character, choose an item from the show which can be cut and reassembled in the same manner as the circles.

    Take pictures to document progress.