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Adapting the curriculum

Adapting the Curriculum

Kelly Brey


March 2002

Definition of inclusive programming
Definition of Inclusive Programming:

  • “True inclusive education requires collaborative teaming to plan individual student’s daily schedules and collaborative instruction and to incorporate special education services and supports into the classroom. It does not mean students no longer receive specialized instruction and related services, or that students are thrown into the mainstream”

    -(Janney & Snell, 2000)

History of inclusion
History of Inclusion:

  • Education for All Handicapped Children’s Act (EHA) passed in 1975

  • EHA reauthorized in 1990 as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

    • FAPE

    • Least restricted environment

    • IEP

      (Bersoff & Hoffer, 1990)

Pl 94 142
PL 94-142

  • Public law 94-142 states “All handicapped students, including those in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not handicapped, and that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of handicapped children from the regular education environment occurrs only when the nature or severity of the handicap is such that an education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”

Why are adaptations necessary
Why Are Adaptations Necessary?

  • As a result of PL94-142, the composition of classrooms has changed. Students with varying levels of abilities can not, and should not, be instructed in the same manner.

  • Without adaptations, some students would never be challenged, while others may never experience success.

Curricular adaptations
Curricular Adaptations

  • Three types of Curricular Adaptations:

    • Supplementary

    • Simplified

    • Alternative

Curricular adaptations1
Curricular Adaptations:

  • Supplementary

    • Add social, communication, study or processing skills to general curriculum

    • Used for students with learning disabilities, or emotional/behavioral disorder

    • Also used for gifted students

Case study alfonzo
Case Study: Alfonzo

  • Alfonzo is 16 year old high school sophomore. He is at or above grade level in all his subjects except reading. What supplementary adaptations could be made to help Alfonzo?

Supplementary adaptations alfonzo
Supplementary Adaptations: Alfonzo

  • Full participation in regular curriculum

    • However, he is allowed instructional modifications such as copies of teachers notes, extra time, etc.

  • Resource/tutorial sessions in addition to regular curriculum to address reading difficulty

Curricular adaptations2
Curricular Adaptations

  • Simplified

    • Change level of difficulty or include fewer objectives

    • Example: instead of teaching whole curriculum, emphasize fewer skills or concepts

Case study sally
Case Study: Sally

Sally is 13 years old, and has obsessive compulsive disorder as well as a developmental delay. She is functioning at or near grade level in several areas, but struggles with decision making and tasks that require close attention (such as math). What adaptations could be made to simplify the curriculum?

Simplified curricular modifications sally
Simplified Curricular Modifications: Sally

  • Full time supports available in the classroom

  • Simplifying content by eliminating technical, conceptually difficult, or confusing material

  • As a result of necessary adaptations, Sally would be a candidate for an IEP diploma rather than a traditional academic diploma (Janney & Snell, 2000)

Curricular adaptations3
Curricular Adaptations

  • Alternative:

    • Teach functional skills plus embedded social, communication, and motor skills

    • Useful for students with severe disabilities

    • “Principle of partial participation” even though a student cannot participate in every aspect of an activity, the student may enjoy/learn from what he/she can do

      (Janney & Snell, 2000)

Case study matthew
Case Study: Matthew

  • Matthew is a 3rd grader with severe multiple disabilities, such as mental retardation and is a paraplegic. He has some upper body movement and can speak a few words (but is often reluctant to do so). Matthew needs assistance with nearly all daily activities, including personal hygiene. What type of alternative curriculum would benefit Matthew?

Alternative curriculum matthew
Alternative Curriculum: Matthew

  • Emphasis on communication

  • Increasing upper motor skills

  • Positive interactions with people, especially other children.

  • Full time support in the classroom

Instructional adaptations
Instructional Adaptations

  • Instructional Stimulus

    • The manner in which the material is presented

  • Student Response

    • “output” required of the student

Instructional adaptations1
Instructional Adaptations

  • Examples of Instructional Stimulus:

    • Rewrite text passages

    • Lecture in short intervals, with breaks in between

    • Reduce number of problems on a page

    • Read out loud to students

    • Teacher modeling

    • Teacher demonstrations

    • Highlighting different content areas

Instructional adaptations2
Instructional Adaptations

  • Examples of Student Response:

    • Read books modified to lower level

    • Only do odd/even numbered problems

    • Have test read out loud to student

    • Think, Pair, Share (Fister & Kemp, 1995)

    • Concentrate on functional problems rather than isolated skills (handling money)

    • Omit “timed” portion of tests/tasks

Case study
Case Study

  • Mike is a 10 year old boy in 5th grade. He performs at grade level in reading and science, but reports “always being lost and behind everyone else in math”. The teacher also reports he rarely completes his work and often “appears frustrated”. What are some instructional adaptations that might be helpful to Mike?


Case study continued
Case Study Continued

  • Some examples of adaptations:

    • Schedule breaks in class

    • Reduce number of problems on a page

    • Have teacher/student model types of problems

    • Have Mike work on only even/odd problems

    • “Think, Pair & Share” or some form of buddy system

    • Allow Mike to take tests without a time limit

Ecological adaptations
Ecological Adaptations:

  • Modifying the environment the child is in.

  • Three W’s—

    • Where: ex- changing child’s seat in class

    • When: ex- have scheduled breaks

    • Who: ex- increase the adult/child ratio

Teacher perceptions
Teacher Perceptions

  • Most desirable adaptations:

    • Provide reinforcement and encouragement

    • Establish a personal relationship with the mainstreamed student

    • Involve mainstreamed student in whole class activities

Teacher perceptions1
Teacher Perceptions

  • Least desirable adaptations:

    • Adapting long range plans

    • Adjust physical arrangement of room

    • Adapt regular materials

    • Use alternative materials

    • Adapt scoring and grading criteria

      (Schumm & Vaughn, 1991)

What this means
What This Means…

  • The types of adaptations deemed most desirable by teachers relate to the social/motivational adjustment of the mainstreamed student.

  • The types of adaptations deemed least desirable require changes in planning, curriculum and evaluation procedures.

  • However, it is important to note that even for the least desired adaptations, the mean rating was 5.54 (scale of 1-7, 7 being high desirability). (Schumm & Vaughn, 1991)

Differences between classrooms


Climate of warmth and inclusiveness

Instructional practices emphasize meaning, active learning and interaction.


Rely heavily on textbook based curriculum

Large group lectures

Uniform seatwork exercises

Differences Between Classrooms:

Levels of accommodation
Levels of Accommodation

--3rd level: Individualized

adaptations & accommodations

--2nd level: Inclusive curricular

& instructional practices

--1st level: Inclusive

School culture

“Accommodating schools and classrooms decrease the need for individualized adaptations”(Janney & Snell, 2000)

Classroom adaptations
Classroom Adaptations:

  • The most effective adaptations are designed to facilitate both social and instructional participation in class activities. (Janney & Snell, 2000)

  • The least intrusive adaptation is made when teachers change teaching strategies for the entire class ex: allow students to write answers on whiteboards.

Implications for cbc
Implications for CBC:

  • Information from consultees is integral to develop effective adaptation

  • Knowledge of the differences between accommodating and unaccommodating classrooms can impact types of adaptations/interventions suggested

Implications for cbc1
Implications for CBC:

  • Parents and teachers can work together to evaluate/implement adaptations

  • Adaptations can be used across settings facilitate success

  • Consultant can be good resource for adaptations implemented by consultees


  • Bersoff, D. N., Hofer, P.T. (1990) The legal regulation of school psychology. In T.B. Gutkin & C.R. Reynolds (Eds.), The Handbook of School Psychology (2nd edition) 937-961. New York, NY: Wiley

  • Fister, S., Kemp, K.A. (1995). TGIF: But what will work on Monday? Longmont, CO: Sopris West

  • Janney, R.J., Snell, M. E. (2000). Teachers’ guides to inclusive practices: Modifying schoolwork. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes, Inc.


  • Meyen, E.L. (1996). Exceptional children in today’s schools. Denver, CO: Love.

  • Schumm, J.S., Vaughn, S. (1991). Making adaptations for mainstreamed students: General classroom teachers’ perspectives. Remedial and Special Education, 12 (4), 18-27.

  • Utah State Office of Education. (1994).Pre-referral ideas and/or modifications for regular/special education classes. BEST project. Granite, UT.