Adaptations Matrix Workbook for Special Needs

Communication Disorders:

Communication disorders include both speech and language impairments which means they have issues with sounds, fluency and voice. Language problems reflects problems in receiving information, understanding it and formulating spoken, written or symbolic responses. Communication is different across cultures and will shared system of rules and symbols for the exchange of information will be different based on the individual’s cultural background. Overall, communication impairments can affect a student’s academic, social and emotional development.

Evaluating a communication disorder is determined by a speech-language pathologist. They will use assessments in formal and informal setting and will try to make sure the student is comfortable.

Designing IEP’s is a collaborative process between the teacher, parent, student and speech-language pathologist. However, the teacher needs to think about if the content is universally designed to allow her students with communication disorders to have access to the same learning opportunities.

Students with communication disorders benefit from language facilitation strategies at a young age. Graphic organizer and story webs help elementary and secondary students. Students will need to be accessed to monitor progress in the general education curriculum.

Examples of Communication disorders:

Stuttering is a speech disorder that disrupts the normal flow of speech with involuntary
repetitions, prolongations of sounds, syllables, words or phase or involuntary pauses.
Teaching Strategies:
Teaching strategies include reducing stress, creating a comfortable learning environment and acting as a role-model. Also, occasionally rephrasing sentences can be a helpful strategy. Ultimately, it is about making the student comfortable, allowing him to participate in class and treating him like a normal student.

Dyslexia is a disorder that is characterized by difficulty reading, spelling, sounding words out, writing words and pronouncing words while reading despite a normal level of intelligence.
Teaching Strategies:
Students with communication disorders benefit from language facilitation strategies at a young age. Graphic organizer and story webs help elementary and secondary students. Word wheels, phoneme practice, use rhyming books with repetition of target words and play sound matching games.

Emotional and Behavioral Disorders:

Assessment for emotional and behavior disorders are dictated by The Scale for Assessing Emotional Disturbance is tied to the 5 elements of IDEA. Additionally, The Behavioral and Emotional Rating scale which is designed to identify students strength and needs as a basis for educational planning.

The wraparound model is a process of linking school, community and mental health service to provide a family driven, collaborative, individualized, culturally competent and strength based planning approach. Complex problems require thought planning and multicomponent interventions.

Early intervention is key to prevention emotional and behavioral problem. Additionally, using the resources and information available is key to maintaining the controlled classroom environment.

Inclusion is a difficult process for students with emotional and behavioral problems. They have the lowest rates of inclusion in the general education classroom. These students are at risk for being served in private institution, separate schools, correctional facilities hospitals and homes.

Assessments include a master evaluation that allows teachers to determine progress. Interventions are key to promote social skills. Finally, students need to have access to the general curriculum.

Examples of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders:

Depression is an emotional disorder that is caused by a number of factors including the chemical makeup of the brain but can also have external causes. Depression has a number of symptoms but most center around feeling of despair or sadness which negatively affects their ability to learn and perform daily living activities. Depression can be detrimental to learning because self-determination is important to learning. If students are unmotivated or sad it will be difficult to get the learning process moving forward.

Anxiety is a feeling of worry. Mild, moderate or occasional, short-term severe anxiety is a normal reaction to stressors in daily life. Although anxiety can be unpleasant, it is a normal reaction to an environmental stressor, and a mild to moderate amount of anxiety can help people to recognize and more effectively deal with stressful situations.

AD/HD Disorder:

There are three types of AD/HD. IDEA identifies students with AD/HD as an “other health impairment.” 6% to 9% of students have Ad/HD. Students with AD/HD typically have issues in school related to behavioral, social and emotional functioning. AD/HD have multiple causes that range from heredity, structural differences in the brain and environmental causes.

Types of AD/HD:
Predominantly inattentive
Predominantly hyperactive impulsive

Diagnosis for AD/HD is done by a psychologist, psychiatrist or physician outside of a school setting. Conners’s Rating Scales is frequently used to identify AD/HD. Another helpful tool for evaluating the extent of AD/HD is the Attention Deficit Disorders Evaluation Scale because it prescribes more interventions than other available scales do.

Teaching Strategies:
Students with AD/HD can benefit from Section 504 accommodation plan but may not qualify for special education services. Additionally, arranging seating, posting daily schedules, and arranging the classroom for smooth transitions can help students. Also, teaching organizational skills is important for students with AD/HD. Finally, it is important that teachers know the side effect of AD/HD medicine and are aware the student is on a medication. Students with AD/HD have a hard time making friends and the USDE does not keep data on AD/HD students participant in general education curriculum.

Students need to be assessed to determine their improvement. Students with AD/HD may need accommodations for tests to allow them a distraction free environment.

Intellectual Disability

Intellectual disabilities are defined by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning (memory, generalizations, and motivation) and adaptive behavior (conceptual, social, and practical skills) that originated before the age of 18. The causes of intellectual disabilities vary that including timing classifications that are prenatal, perinatal, and postnatal. Type classification include biomedical, social, behavioral, or educational.

Evaluating intellectual disabilities is done through the AAIDD Adaptive Behavior Scale. Also, the Transition Planning Inventory assess nine knowledge, skill and behavior areas of provide level of performance information related to transitional needs.

Appropriate IEP for students with intellectual disabilities which is dependent on interagency collaboration. Paraprofessional are valuable resources for the student. Also, assistive technologies can be very useful to students. Also, a functioning curriculum is important to teaching independent life skills.

Teaching Strategies:
Effective instructional strategies are need and students have shown benefits from prelinguistic milieu to elicit communication and language from them. Also, self determined learning model is important to help teach the student to be personally responsible for his education, actions and for self reliance. Students benefit from community based instruction. However, students are not always incorporated in general education programs. However, data shows that students perform higher when integrated into the general education programs.

Students need to be assessed to determine the progress and improvement in subject areas. Data-based decision making strategies to document students progress in general education. Also, the ecological inventory process is useful for planning community based instruction and assessment of student attainment. Student’s IEP must describe the accommodations they are entitled to such as having more time, havie it4ems clarified or distinct responses or having questions read to them.

Examples of intellectual Disabilities:

Down syndrome is a genetic disability caused by chromosome 21 were all or part of a third copy is present. Down syndrome is associated growth delays, rounded facial features and mild to moderate intellectual disability. IQ levels are typically around 50 and is around the intelligence of a 8 to 9 year old.

Effective instructional strategies are need and students have shown benefits from prelinguistic milieu to elicit communication and language from them. Also, self determined learning model is important to help teach the student to be personally responsible for his education, actions and for self reliance. Students benefit from community based instruction and typically are more successful when they are able to interact with peers and have solid support group.


Autism is a developmental disability that affects verbal and nonverbal communication as well as social interactions. Typically, you can determine if a child is autistic by the age of 3. Other behaviors include repetitive activities, behavioral challenges, need for predictable environment etc. Autism is 1/110. Autism is caused by biological and environmental factors.

The Autism Diagnostic Interview is used to determine if a child has autism. A functional behavior assessment identifies specific relationships between environmental events and a student’s problem. It is used as an intervention to help facilitate normal functioning for students.

Teaching Strategies:
Designing appropriate IEP’s requires positive behavior support that involves many different members including teachers, administrators, family, and behavior specialists. Implementing behavior support involves building support systems in the classroom to promote positive behavior. Also, mnemonic strategies are effective curriculum adaptations that enable students with autism to succeed in the a general education classroom. Social stories are helpful to students with autism specifically ones that promote good social behaviors. Positive behavior support in classrooms, group work, individual play help to decrease behavior problems. Discrete trial teaching applies learning principles from operant psychology to provide effective ways of teaching kids with autism. Generally, students with autism do not have high inclusion rates in general education settings.

Students need to be assessed to determine their improvement. The Autism Screening Instrument for Education Planning can provide students with ways to collect data progress in general curriculum settings. Behavioral data needs to be collected as a function of the positive behavior support. Also, having a familiar person administer tests can help improve their performance.

Gifted and Talented

Characteristics of students that are gifted and talented include high general intellect, creativity, leadership and visual or performing arts. These students require special services not provided by IDEA. Students from racial and ethnic backgrounds are underrepresented. IQ test scores are equated with giftedness. Top 2 to 3 percent are characterized as gifted.

DISCOVER is a performance based, research validated assessment for identifying giftedness in students. Also, the Torrance Test of Creative thinking are a valid and reliable way to assess the strength and needs of students in the area of creativity.

Teaching Strategies:
Students that are gifted need to have a differentiated learning environment to keep them interested and engaged in the classroom. Modifications to the scope and sequence of instruction are helpful. Also, it is important to address socio-emotional needs to students that are gifted; autonomous learning model. Garner’s multiple intelligence theory has a direct and significant impact on education. Universal design programs are helpful as well. The schoolwide enrichment model provide effective ways to implement instructional strategies across campus.

Product and process evaluations and learning contracts are ways that students who are gifted can be involved in evaluating the progress of the educational program. Feedback is really important from gifted and talented students so that we can make sure that they are stimulated and challenged by the content.

Hearing and Visual Disability:

In education, visual impairments are defined as an impairment that can adversely affect students learning. Students with visual impairments are limited to learn incidentally by watching their environment.

Ophthalmologists determine the presence of a visual disability. Optometrists determine if a visual impairment can be corrected. A functional low vision assessment determines how students use their eyes in different situations. A learning media assessment assists TVI in determine the efficient mode of reading and learning; braille, large print, etc.

Teaching Strategies/Accommodations:
Developing an IEP for students involve developing skills that other students will develop incidentally through visual stimuli. TVI’s focus on the functional and life skills need to function in society. Educators must meet the needs of students through the principles of universal design instruction. Students learn through meaningful involvement and using all of their senses to interpret their surroundings.

TVI’s in early childhood focus on being able to move through the world. IE clothes, bathroom, moving around and making snacks. In the elementary years it focus on teaching braille, raised maps and other compensatory skills that allow them access to the general curriculum and helps to facilitate social skills. In secondary skills, the focus is on helping the student prepare for the adult world.

Communication strategies –
Teachers will need to read information out loud to make sure that they have included all students. Ie Visual Disabilities
Teachers should describe diagrams, pictures and graphs.
Describe each step in detail for projects.
Encourage students to reposition so that they can see in the classroom

Students with visual impairments are typically included in the general education curriculum. Special education services are available to students; typically provided in the form of a TVI.

Progress in the general curriculum is measure through material selected by the teacher and adapted by the TVI. Progress in the expanded core curriculum is measured by the TVI and O&M specialist. Accommodations for tests are determined by the IEP and are typically rely on braille or print.

Hearing impairment:
Students are categorized as either deaf or hard of hearing. Reading and writing are the main concerns for students with hearing issues. Hearing loss is a low incidence disability with 1.2 percent of students with this disability.

Diagnosing hearing loss is done with a otoacoustic emissions test with infants and young children. A behavioral audiological evaluation is used for older students. Hearing aids are useful tools but they make sound louder but do not restore normal hearing. Cochlear implants are other tools that provides sound information to auditory nerve fibers in the cochlea.

Teaching Strategies/Accommodations:
Students with hearing loss issues typically have a hearing aid or implant. Additionally, they can rely on interpreters or use other methods of communication. Also, it is important that students are taught ASL, English and are taught about the culture of deafness.

Assessment of language speech and speech reading, signing and academic achievement and socialization are essential for providing students with appropriate education. Students with hearing issues may struggle with speech. Story retelling allows students to show they understood what they read.

Health Impairments:

Health impairments are chronic or acute health problems that limits strength, vitality and alertness to affect a student’s education. Epilepsy or asthma are a couple examples of health impairments.

Physical examinations are the first steps in determining if a student has a health impairment. Sometimes a neurological examination will be needed. Also, prenatal screening as assess of child could have a health impairment. Finally, the School Function Assessment is a criterion-based measurement of functional skills required of elementary students.

Students with health impairments benefit from comprehensive plans that specifies health supports and accommodations. School based health clinics are helpful resources for students. Students can have content delivered in different methods to allow access to general education curriculum. Physical education and test can be made to accommodate students with health impairments.

Teaching Strategies:
Teachers should help students with health impairments with self-awareness. Also, a token economy systems is helpful to reinforce positive behaviors and academic outcomes. Students with health impairments want to have their own life. Learning to drive is important to many teens development and sense of freedom.

There are multiple ways to assess a student’s progress but teachers should make accommodations as needed. Teachers should look to develop an understanding of health for each student.

Examples of Health Impairments:

Asthma is a health disability that affects the ability to breath because of tightening of muscles around air passages which inhibits breathing. Shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing difficulty performing normal activities are signs of asthma.

Epilepsy is a neurological disability that is characterized by seizures. Seizures can vary from brief and nearly undetectable to long periods of vigorous shaking.


Tri-County Regional Office – local resource for finding a variety of services.

Rainbow Connection – local resource for finding a variety of services.

Speech, Language and Hearing Resource: Online resource for speech, language and hearing resource.

Autism Society – online resource

Autism Resources

AD/HD Resource- online resource

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