ALL the Tips for Using Adapted Books in Special Education

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Adapted books, with their interactive and customizable features, have emerged as invaluable resources for educators working with students of diverse abilities, particularly in autism classrooms.

Think of this post like your ultimate guide for using adapted books for autism classrooms and in special education. It’s packed with easy tips that will absolutely work for you when using adapted books in your classroom.

Using adapted books in special education is definitely a game changer! They can increase engagement and make books and literacy more accessible to all students.

Let’s chat about the following things about adapted books:

➡️ What are adapted books?

➡️ What elements are needed for an adapted book?

➡️ The major benefits of using adapted books

➡️ How to make your own adapted books

➡️ How to use adapted books in your autism classroom


prepositions adapted book for autism classroom

What are Adapted Books?

Adapted books are special books designed for students with different learning needs. They’re meant to make reading easier and more accessible for students with disabilities.

This might mean changing a book to include bigger text, simpler words, pictures and even things to touch (like interactive pieces). Adapted books help all students, no matter their learning style, to have a better time reading, learning and comprehending the material.

You can adapt books that you already have, create your own or purchase adapted books created by someone else.

Elements of Adapted Books

Let’s look at some ways that you can either make a traditional book adaptive or create your own adapted book for students.

use interactive pieces

For students who may need extra support in learning, especially those in special education or autism classrooms, using interactive pieces is a a great hands-on approach. It helps them better understand and remember what they’re reading. It also lets them be more involved in the learning by attaching a picture to match what they just read on a velcro piece. Interactive parts can be things like Velcro, flaps you can lift and pieces you can move around. These special parts, like things that move or have different textures, make reading more interesting keep students engaged.

visual supports

Having visuals is another great way for students to stay engaged during the reading of a book. Visual supports are like helpful pictures or symbols in an adapted book. They give extra clues about what the words mean. For students who might need a bit more help with comprehension, visual supports are like a guide. They make it easier to understand and enjoy the book.

(Also check out: 5 Tips for Using Visual Supports in the Classroom)

simplified text

Simplified text means the words are made easier to read and understand. By using simpler words and sentences, the book becomes more like a friend who talks in a way that’s just right for them. It helps kids focus on the story without getting stuck on tough sight words or new vocabulary.

What are the Benefits of Using Adapted Books?

Increased Literacy Skills

Using adapted books in special education helps with reading and literacy skills because they’re designed to fit each student’s unique abilities. For example, the text can be made bigger or simpler. Interactive parts make it more fun and engaging, which helps students remember what they read.

By adjusting the books to match how each student learns best, it makes reading easier and more enjoyable for everyone. This way, all students can improve their reading skills at their own pace.

Helps with Independence

Using adapted books in special education promotes independence by giving students the tools they need to read and learn on their own. The customized features, like larger text or interactive elements, make it easier for students to engage with the material without constant assistance.

Boosts Confidence

This boosts their confidence and empowers them to tackle reading tasks more independently. As students become more comfortable with adapted books, they gain a sense of ownership over their learning. This newfound independence not only enhances their reading skills but also fosters a greater sense of self-confidence in the learning process.

Builds Communication Skills

Adapted books in special education help build communication skills in several ways. Firstly, they provide a structured platform for students to practice reading aloud, which strengthens their verbal communication abilities. For non-speaking or minimally verbal students, adapted books often incorporate visual supports like pictures or symbols, which serve as aids for communication.

Vocabulary Development 

Adapted books help with learning new vocabulary words because they’re designed to match each student’s level. They often have pictures to show what words mean. Also, the activities in these books let students use and practice these words. By reading and using the same words again, students remember them better. Plus, adapted books let students learn at their own speed, which makes picking up new words easier and more enjoyable.

Encourages Pre-Reading Skills

Adapted books support pre-reading skills in a few important ways. First, they often use big, clear text and simple words, which helps students get familiar with letters and words. The pictures and interactive parts in these books also help students understand that words have meaning and can be linked to images. By using adapted books, students practice turning pages and following along from left to right, which are important skills for reading. Additionally, the repetition of words and patterns in these books helps reinforce basic reading concepts.

Helps with Comprehension Skills

Adapted books aid in developing comprehension skills by offering content that is tailored to a student’s specific learning needs. They often include visuals and interactive elements, which provide additional context and support understanding. The simplified language and clear text in adapted books make it easier for students to grasp the meaning of the material.

Can I Make my Own Adapted Books?

You can easily adapt traditional books or create your own adapted books.

Here’s a step-by-step guide of how to adapt traditional books to use with your students:

  1. Choose a Book: Start with a book that fits your students’ interests and learning goals. Consider using a familiar story or a topic that they find engaging.
  2. Select Adaptations: Identify what adaptations are needed. This could include larger text, simplified language, added visuals, tactile elements or interactive features.
  3. Materials: Gather the materials you’ll need, such as the book, scissors, glue, markers, pictures, symbols, or other tactile materials.
  4. Prepare the Book:
    • Enlarge Text: If needed, photocopy or print the text in a larger font.
    • Simplify Language: Rewrite or type out the text using simpler language if the original is too complex.
    • Add Visuals: Incorporate pictures or symbols that correspond to the text to provide visual support.
  5. Interactive Elements:
    • Flaps or Tabs: Add flaps with extra information or interactive elements that students can lift or move.
    • Velcro Pieces: Attach Velcro dots to allow for removable or movable pieces (such as matching pictures to the words read on the page)
basic concepts adapted book for autism

Here’s how to create your own adaptive books using Canva:

  1. Sign in to Canva:
    • If you don’t have an account, you’ll need to create one. It’s free to sign up.
  2. Choose a Template:
    • Go to Canva’s homepage and select “Create a design.” Choose a custom dimension that suits your needs (e.g., standard paper size for printing).
  3. Select a Layout:
    • Pick a layout that fits the style and structure you want for your adapted book. You can adjust and customize it later.
  4. Add Text:
    • Click on the “Text” tab on the left sidebar. Type or paste the text from your chosen book into the text box. Adjust the font, size, and color to make it suitable for your students.
  5. Add Images or Symbols:
    • If your adapted book requires visuals, you can upload images or use Canva’s built-in image library. You can also search for symbols if needed.
  6. Incorporate Interactive Elements:
    • For interactive elements, you can use Canva’s shapes or text boxes. Make sure to leave space for flaps, tabs or Velcro attachments.
  7. Duplicate and Rearrange Pages:
    • Create multiple pages by duplicating your design. Adjust the content and layout for each page as needed.
  8. Test and Review:
    • Preview your adapted book to ensure everything looks and functions as intended.
  9. Print and Assemble:
    • Once you’re satisfied with the design, you can print the pages.
  10. Add Interactive Elements (if you want)
    • Attach any interactive elements like flaps, tabs, or Velcro pieces
  11. Add Tactile Features:
    • Consider using materials like fabric, textured paper or small 3D objects. You can attach these after printing.

How to Use Adaptive Books in Special Education

Adapted books are great because there are so many different ways that you can incorporate them into your classroom:

➡️ Use them for guided reading sessions during small groups with students.

➡️ Use them during whole group instruction and focus on the interactive element pieces for students.

➡️ Use them to teach about life skills such as washing your hands.

➡️ Use them to teach basic concepts.

➡️ Use them for independent work tasks.

➡️ Use them to work on specific language goals and IEP goals.

➡️ Use them to teach CORE Words.

➡️ Use them as an assessment tool when gathering data on IEP goals.

➡️ Use them for errorless work tasks.

errorless shapes adapted book for autism

Adapted Books for the Entire Year in Special Education

So as you can see, you can create your own adapted books or adapt traditional stories using the tips above.

Want to know a secret?

I even used adapted books during math when I was still in the classroom for counting and learning shapes!

I took all of the 34 adaptive books that I created and put them in a huge bundle to make your life easier this school year!

These adapted books focus on skills such as:

✔️ Counting

✔️ Spatial Concepts

✔️ The 5 Senses

✔️ Sequencing

✔️ Shapes

✔️ Community CORE Words

✔️ Every Holiday


I want to know…do you use adapted books in your autism classroom? What do you love about them?

ALL the Tips for Using Adapted Books in Special Education
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