Understanding Adaptations for All Students

Recently, we discussed the nine different types of adaptations and how they play an important role in a student’s education.

While knowing the different adaptations is important, understanding adaptations in terms of their curricular, instructional, and ecological placement is equally as important.

Understanding Adaptations in Special Ed

Without this understanding, it can be difficult to make the right adaptations at the right time for the right students.

Understanding Adaptations’ Placement

There are three main placements for adaptations. Those are: curricular, instructional, and ecological. Each is equally as important as the other and they all play a significant role in students’ success.

Curricular Adaptations

Curricular adaptations adapt the material that is taught. There are three types of curricular adaptations.

Supplementary Adaptations

There may be supplementary adaptations that add in discussions, oral assignments, or enhanced processing or study skills.

These allow the student to learn the material in a different way and, possibly, at a different level.

Simplified Adaptations

Simplified adaptations do very much what one would expect – they simplify the material being taught.

For some students, it might look like a simplified version of the assignment or lesson that is being given. For other students, it might be fewer objectives that need to be accomplished.

Either way, the material is simplified to adapt to and meet the needs of the students.

Alternative Adaptations

Alternative adaptations teach more functional skills.

These types of adaptations often weave in more social, emotional, and fine and gross motor skills to the lesson. They meet the student where he or she is at and help them build a solid foundation before moving on to more advanced material.

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Instructional Adaptations

Instructional adaptations change how the material is presented and how learning is demonstrated. There are two types of instructional adaptations.

Instructional Input

Instructional input refers to the difficulty and amount presented in the lesson. For some students, there may need to be fewer concepts presented in a lesson so that they have time to understand the information.

It also refers to how the material is presented – what instructional methods are used to get the information across. This could be a video about the material or a hands-on demonstration versus a lecture for example.

And finally, instructional input also refers to the materials and format that is used. What materials is the student given and what format are they in? This will vary based on your students’ needs.

Instructional Output

What information you present must also have a way of being assessed and that’s where the instructional output comes into play.

Like input, it refers to the difficulty of and amount required to be demonstrated. It also refers to how the material is presented and the materials or formats that the student must or can use to demonstrate learning.

Ecological Adaptations

Ecological adaptations adapt the setting of the instruction and output – the when, where, and who of instruction.


They change the “when” of the instruction. If the student doesn’t do well with difficult topics in the afternoon, an adaptation might be to switch the schedule so that the more challenging classes are in the morning.


“Where” is an adaptation in the setting of instruction. Perhaps the student needs a quiet place to learn instead of a noisier setting.


The “who” of ecological adaptations is in reference to who is doing the instruction.

Understanding the placement for adaptations makes it easier to prescribe and implement adaptations that will best serve your students.

What types of adaptations do utilize in your classroom? Tell us in the comments below!




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