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Adapting Lessons to Support Students with Severe Disabilities


Lessons typically require that children mix or pour substances in some way. For most children this will be completed by a physical movement/interaction. For children who have significant physical difficulties and can’t use their hands, fingers, etc., you can help them mix/pour using one or more of the following approaches.

Use Power Link:

A power link allows for an electric appliance such as a blender, mixer, etc. to be plugged into it and a switch can be connected in which the student uses to turn on the appliance. The Power link can be borrowed from or other loan programs. A picture of the Power link and information about can be found at:

Zip Lock Bag:

Put items in zip lock baggie and shake, squeeze etc. to mix materials.

Adapt Utensils:

Adapt utensils (spoons, bowls, etc.) used in the pour/mix task by building up the handles, using larger utensils, etc. so that students with physical disability can successfully participate in mix/pour activity. Consult with occupational therapist and other related service professionals to assist with ideas on how to adapt materials.

Switch Activated Option:

Enabling Devices (see website below) has a switch activated pour cup. This device allows the student to activate a switch which causes the cup to turn and pour out the contents placed inside. The pour cup can be borrowed by or possibly from other loan programs.

Light tech Options:

Light tech refers to no-computerized adaptations and supports. When devices or other computer options are not available the teacher can utilize light tech options to support communication, participation and learning. Laminated paper communication boards are one example of light tech options that can meet a student’s communication needs. The picture symbols, magazine photos, photographs, post it notes, word cards, etc. related to the science activity and/or question at hand can be arranged in tables in a word processing document, printed, and laminated for the student. Or the symbols can be cut out into individual cards and mounted on a piece of cardboard, a file folder, or foam core boards to create communication boards. Individual symbols can be attached using Velcro, clothes pins, putty, etc. so that they can be moved, presented individually or exchanged as part of the communication act. Often the teacher will show the student the symbols before asking a question, or explaining how the symbols will be used in the activity. The student can communicate by touching a desired symbol, looking at the symbol or indicating their choice through partner assisted scanning.

Handouts on web: