Adapting And Modifying An English Lesson For Special Needs

The first and most essential adaptation is determining what information is most critical for students to learn and adjusting the instructional emphasis of the program. Apart from this, the objective of a lesson must be defined based on the previous knowledge a child has. These objectives can be adapted/reduced/modified/redefined based on the needs of the child.

Once the objectives of the lessons are defined, it is easier to modify the material. The adaptation can be done by altering existing lesson. They can be rewritten or reorganised if that fulfils the objectives and helps student reach the pre-decided goal. However, in a case where altering existing text doesn’t solve the problem. One can try to find alternate material that is more sensitive or in-sync with the previous knowledge and which reinforces learning in smaller increments.

Here is a recent example of a chapter and how it was adapted to suit the needs of my daughter, who is in grade IV and has Down syndrome.

The chapter was ‘Pandora’s Box’ : A Greek Mythology from the book ‘Empowering English’

Now, to tell a child about the difference between a story and a myth is a difficult preposition and also, looking at the kind of vocabulary, information and many characters, and overall complexity, I decided to not modify the existing lesson and approach it differently.

Here is the lesson. You’ll understand why it had to be modified by not simplifying but completely adapting it, so that it can be understood.

As you can read from the text, there were many pieces of information, which weren’t important for Aarshia to know. For example the background of Zeus and Prometheus’s enmity. The birth details of Pandora and some other extra information. I had to first define the objectives basis how can she participate in the class during this lesson as well as learn a few things for future reference, mostly ‘Pandora box’ and ‘hope’.

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First task was to define the objectives. And according to Aarshia’s current level and her future functional skill, I figured these many would suffice…

  1. To help Aarshia read the lesson on her own and have a basic comprehension of the events.
  2. To participate in the class at the time of the lesson reading and further discussions
  3. To answer 2-3 factual questions about the lesson.
  4. To know that,

a. Pandora was a girl.

b. Pandora box means a box with many things.

5. Learn to read ten new words

6. Learn meaning of two new words; enraged, curious

7. Learn to spell five new words.

Once the objectives were defined, it was easier to reach to the next step which was finding if any such stories were available already. And, I was surely lucky! In the first few hours, I found an author whose book ‘Don’t open’ served the purpose perfectly.

It was the same story in simplified and easy to read words in the form of a story book. This didn’t have the hard to remember names and unfamiliar contexts. This served my purpose right and I immediately bought it from Amazon.

Here are a few slides for you to see the difference.

As you can see, this is quite a contrast from the school book chapter and was definitely better for Aarshia’s unique skill set.

She was eager to read and answer the question. Now here one has two choices. If the child can, then he can be asked the questions from the back of the lesson, rest a fun worksheet can be designed which shouldn’t be too complicated since we are trying to build the confidence of the child here.

Here is a quick example

Pandora box worksheet

Pandora box worksheet

The bright and colourful pages of the book kept Aarshia hooked and she loved reading the story. She could also read it in her class and answer some of the basic questions about the chapter.

Also, since it was an english chapter and did not have as many explicit and concrete goals to achieve, I could go easy with her on this.

The following sheet would help you understand about adaptations and modification in more detail.

Do drop in a line in the comment section if you found it helpful.

Aarshia and Mama




  1. Great article Deepa.. some really valuable inputs from u.. thank you

    • thanks Sia for reading and taking out time to write a comment. Appreciate it 🙂