Adaptations for Children with Special Needs

By:  Cindy Golden,

The most important thing in the world that you can do for your child with special needs is to teach them how to be independent. Regardless of how much disability affects their daily lives we, teachers and parents, should all find ways to teach them how to become as independent as is possible. We should make accomodations that will encourage independent skills while not limiting their ability to progress.
This post is written for those of you who have children with more significant needs. If your child is not independent in daily living (eating, dressing, personal care, choosing clothing, bathing, toileting) you may need to use adaptations so they can begin to do for themselves.

There are a few things that you may need to keep in mind. If your child is very young then you may not need to adapt the skill as much as you need to task analyze the skill and teach each discrete step. For example: teeth brushing. A task analysis of this skill may include the following steps:

  • get toothbrush
  • get toothpaste
  • open tooth paste
  • squirt paste on toothbrush
  • etc.
  • You get the idea. Teach each step then add one by one. Sometimes it’s better that you start at the end and do everything except the last step and let the child do that step and work backwards.

    Here is an example of a task analysis of a hygiene routine. Easy to make from construction paper, photos or picture symbols and laminate it so that it will not get destroyed in the bathroom. It also folds up and you can put a hanger on it to hang beside the mirror in the bathroom.



     If your child is older, more significantly involved with Autism or their disability, in addition to having motor weaknesses – you may need to adapt the skills they need everyday.

    Disabled World is site that has hundreds of hard to find products for those who struggle with daily living skills. The page that I found the most helpful was the one for Adapted Dining Products. In the public schools, we have many of our students who struggle with going to the lunchroom, getting their lunch tray, opening milk, and using utensils independently. Teacher struggle with helping them to be as independent as possibile. If you, as the parent, could begin teaching these skills at home and they are reinforced at school, the child would become independent more quickly.

    There are many of the products on this site that would assist the children in completeing these tasks independently. Here is one of those products.

  • This is a type of tubing that you can slip over utensils to make them easier to grip.

      Look around the site and find ways to help your child become more independent. In addition to looking through this site, you may also want to be creative about how to use other items such as this:


  • This is very inexpensive and can be used to create a placemat so that the child’s plate will not slip, color code his or her place at the table, wrap around objects that are difficult to hold onto, etc.

    Just be creative and think outside the box!

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