Adapting Resources

I truly believe in fully inclusive lessons, and although I hate the term ‘thinking outside the box’, this is the best way I can think of to describe how it is possible to adapt resources to suit ALL. I understand what its like to teach a class of students that range from P3ii to P8 or NC1 and yes it is hard, but it is possible – you just have to be inventive! Here are my top tips:

  • Where possible, appeal to all but don’t forget the individual; if you have a student who loves Thomas the Tank Engine, include this in your counting activities. You could count how many trains you can find in the sand, stick numbers on the trains and line them up, put coloured dots on the train and match them to the corresponding number…the possibilities are endless!
  • Use objects and sensory materials; you can work on exploring through materials in a range of lessons, maths can be taught through cooking and science can be taught outside in water trays. I was once faced with the challenge of teaching maths in the hydro pool…I managed to find some bargain ‘pool noodles’ in the pound shop and decided they would be perfect for teaching long and short. We also put loads of balls in the pool and did a race to fill big clear bowls which we then used to teach ‘more’ and ‘less’ (double laminate and tape symbols!). Some students could be asked to find the shortest from a choice of 5, others can match by colour and others could use other objects to find the tallest object.
  • Adapt for all types of communication; it may be time consuming to begin with, but it really is important to adapt activities to suit all forms of communication and ability levels. This may include picture to word match, picture to picture match, picture to photo match or picture to photo match! Here is how to make ONE resource but include all the above options…

Adaptive books

These can be used for ANY subject for a range of ability and communication levels.

This example is for a maths lesson.

  1. Start by laminating A4 sheet with numbers on half the page.
  2. Laminate pictures (2 per A4 sheet).
  3. Laminate second sheet of numbers and cut out, add velcro to transferable numbers and opposite velcro to A4 sheet.
  4. Hole punch pages and add treasury tags OR bind.

This resources is available here to print and make up: How Many Adaptive Book

I have also produced this to go alongside ‘What the Ladybird Heard’ book. I have left the squares blank, this can be made into a matching word, picture, photo or symbol resource. Adaptive book I see animals – ladybird




Literacy Activity Carousel

I am a big believer in working on targets in a range of different activities to ensure students are able to transfer skills. It may also be a good idea to encourage students to complete activities with different members of staff in various lessons or you may find students become reliant on environmental factors to remember how to complete the task and are therefore not actually working on their skills.

I often use a ‘carousel’ of activities in a lesson; this involves setting up a different activity on several tables (or you could use a basket as recommended in ‘TEACCH’ strategies) which work towards a particular skill. Use a class timer to indicate how long the student should spend on the activity or even this online stopwatch and then move on to the next table (I would recommend between 5 and 8 minutes). For students who need visual support, you could have a schedule of what activities they will complete. The activities can be very short to keep students interested and can also be very sensory!

As an example, I have included a list of activities I would use for P4 writing targets:

  • Finding letters in a sensory rice tray or using your finger to write letters in the rice.


  • Use a whiteboard/blackboard/pens on foil for mark making to build on fine motor skills.
  • Watch an adult write a letter in shaving foam/sand  and then complete with hand over hand support.


  • Find letters to make up a name
  • Practise typing on a computer
  • Use cotton buds and water to copy different patterns5909aa7b51fe03a0fe5081efd4b3e6fd
  • Use the interactive whiteboard to overwrite lines and shapes on paint
  • Write in sand using feathers
  • Make laminated sheets with hair gel (or similar) inside and practise making marks547d48b67be628445380f63f942fb18f
  • ‘Write’ on play dough
  • Find letters displayed on the wall in the classroom
  • Place large pieces of paper over the floor with lines or letters on. Students to overwrite using paint on their fingers
  • Complete a letter puzzle

I could go on forever, but here are a few ideas! As for starters and plenary I tend to do something physical such as ‘dough disco’ from the amazing Shonette Bason-Wood, ‘Write Dance’ or fine motor songs on youtube.


Place Setting Lesson Plan (PHSE)

I am big believer in teaching tasks that promote independence – even if it means incorporating life skills into core subject activities. Below is a very simple resource (a table place setting ) that can be used in several ways and can tick off lots of b-squared targets.

place setting (Print and Laminate)

I have written a very basic lesson plan below to show how this simple activity can form the basis of a PHSE/English/Maths lesson. You will notice I have incorporated a range of b-squared targets to show how this lesson can appeal to a diverse group.

Starter Activity – Sit around the table with lots of cutlery scattered in front of students. Sign the word ‘fork’, pick up a fork and ask students if they can find one the same. P5 students to locate a fork in the kitchen. Repeat activity for cutlery and if necessary, crockery. Praise students who find the object, use a ‘countdown’ to make the activity fun. Extend by asking students to find ‘2 forks’ etc.

Matches objects (Maths Using and Applying) P3ii

Points to object when asked (English, Listening) P4

Brings a specific object from another room (PHSE) P5

Main Activity – Complete a carousel of activities; 1. Sort cutlery into a cutlery tray 2. Practise preparing a table by using the laminated place setting activity 3. Match pictures of cutlery and crockery to the place setting sheet or find cutlery in a sensory tray 4. Match photos/symbols/words to pictures of cutlery and crockery.

Looks for familiar object (PHSE) P3ii

Looks at picture and points to object (English, Speaking) P4

Begins to match object to object (Maths, Shape, Space and Measure) P5

Plenary – As a group, set up the table – using the place setting sheet as support where needed. Enjoy a snack together as a class, using the cutlery and crockery appropriately, maybe even invite another class to share the activity!

Offers object to others (English, Reading) P3ii

Uses equipment as requested (PHSE) P4

Selects appropriate tool for task, e.g. spoon to eat with (Maths, Using and Applying) P5

Daily Sensory Activities

Standing in the middle of a very busy airport, flight details are continuously changing on the boards in a circle all around the departures lounge, people are rushing around in all directions and announcements of flight details are repeated loudly through overhead speakers. This is how someone once explained sensory overload to me, and the thought of it actually made me feel stressed! Add a pair of ear defenders to block out the noise and instantly the situation becomes a lot more manageable…

If you are already working in an ASD setting, chances are you have experienced students who display behaviours linked to ‘sensory overload’. This may occur when a student experiences too much stimulation from their environment and can be conveyed through different behaviours; putting fingers in ears, not entering a room, ‘stimming’ and many more. Conversely, you may also have experience of students who are not sensitive at all to the sensory environment around them but seek feedback (sometimes inappropriately).

There are many techniques that can be used to help a child manage the sensory world we live in. Some of the ideas I use are detailed below.

IMG_7229.JPGMorning Movement – After what may have been a stressful morning before even getting on the bus, a bit of movement when arriving into school can do each and every one of us (staff included) a world of good! Even if it is only 5 minutes. My top picks would be rebound therapy, the oscillating plate or just a run outside!


Morning Massage – Following circle time (register, daily song etc) I always endorse up to 5 minutes of ‘morning massage’. This can also include some excellent communication teaching opportunities; students can ask for hand cream or massage equipment (I always have box made up of car cleaning mitts, back scratchers, sponges etc) or can ‘choose’ what type of massage they would like from a visual symbol on a communication board.



TAC PAC – ‘Tacpac® is a revolutionary activity pack that combines touch and music to promote communication and social interaction, sensory, neurological and emotional development.’


I really cannot praise tac pac enough! Not only is it extremely cheap to set up (once you have purchased the CDs, the massage resources can be found in low cost home stores), it can be used with students of varying abilities across the spectrum. I have also incorporated tac pac in a lesson by encouraging students to match photos or symbols to objects and sequencing ‘what is next’. I used tac pac at least once a week and find the majority of students look forward to the lessons.

Sensory Diet – Occupational Therapists are responsible for setting up ‘Sensory Diets’ for individual students. Following a referral, OT’s may ask parents and professionals to answer questions about a child and decide what form of sensory input they need to produce a programme, also known as a ‘sensory diet’. Activities within the programme will be completed at frequent intervals and may range from ‘movement based’ actions such as running around in large circles to simple deep pressure from a weighted blanket or vest. Depending on the student, the sensory diet may follow a strict timed schedule or may be a result of environmental factors.



Visual Communication and Autism

It is widely known that people with ASD are visual learners and as a result, benefit from visual support in order to communicate.



The PECS communication programme is absolutely fantastic and has received worldwide recognition for its effectiveness amongst those with ASD. The training itself prepares the trainee on how to implement the programme and also how to manage challenges that may arise as a result of communication difficulties, for example, teaching how to ‘wait’.


Once you have invested in the training, all you need is symbol making software (communicate in print, matrix maker etc), a laminator, laminating pouches and velcro. A very small price to pay to teach someone to communicate! The key is to utilise every possible opportunity to teach communication techniques. If you are struggling on how to do this, have a look at this bubble chart of ideas…

Visual Communication throughout the day

From my experience of PECS, here are a few tips;

  • The programme has strict phases which need to be followed! As trainers, staff need to ensure they understand the phase they are teaching to allow the student to complete it appropriately.
  • Do not start the next phase until the student is confident to do so (this means completing the current phase with different motivators, staff, settings etc).
  • Never dismiss a potential motivator…in the past we have had punch pocket, potato and an empty water bottle to name a few!
  • A student is never ‘too young’ to communicate!
  • Remember there is a difference between PECS and visual schedules! PECS refers to the 6 phase communication programme.
  • Elements of PECS can be used in lots of activities, for example, ‘error correction’ is great to convey to correct answer in subjects, e.g ‘where is the big square?’

Thank you Carol Gray for Social Stories!


Social stories are a great way of helping a person with ASD understand what is going to happen in a given situation, how they may feel during this time, and what actions they can take to end the experience positively. A young person may exceed our expectations with how well they cope with one situation and then surprise us with how they may find other situations particularly difficult. It may be helpful to have a ‘stash’ of social stories to edit and print when difficulties arise or to prepare for a situations that may cause anxiety.

A few points to remember;

  • Social stories should have an introduction, middle and positive ending. The ‘story’ should be accompanied by appropriate photos or pictures.
  • Questions should be answered; What will happen? How will I feel? When will it happen? Why does it happen?
  • The social story should appeal directly to the individual. Where possible, use interests and information that the young person can relate to. The cognitive ability of the child should be reflected in how and what is written in the social story – do not use complicated or too much language for a small child who wouldn’t understand. Similarly, the social story could be turned into a magazine article or comic strip for those older, more able students. There are also some new social story apps available for iPad.
  • Consider if the text should be written in the first or third person, depending on the age and ability of the young person.
  • The social story needs to be written to encourage appropriate behaviour, and therefore expected actions need to be outlined.
  • Role play can accompany the story to help the individual to understand the situation.

Examples of social stories;

  • Moving to a new school
  • A new baby in the family
  • Toilet training
  • Shopping in the community
  • A new member of staff in the classroom
  • How to follow the school rules

And many many more!

Please see the ‘Social Stories’ section for a few examples to download and edit.

Autism teaching…top tips!

Ok, here goes…my first ever blog post! I’ve had a think about what I should write and I thought ‘top tips’ would be a good place to start. Mainly because when I started out as a NQT it used to take me a good 2 hours to plan a 45 minute lesson, which half the time I didn’t even get through! So, maybe with a few little tips (which most of the time I am sure are just common sense) I can pass on a little bit of what got me through!


If ever there was an essential piece of advice for teaching young people with Autism I would say consistency is it! If you put in place a behaviour rule, staff rota, timetable etc make sure you are CONSISTENT! Especially when it comes to behaviour plans…if you say ‘no computer’ until a workstation task is finished, you have to stick to it…believe me, I have made this mistake and paid the consequences! Make sure all your staff are singing from the same hymn sheet so if a student works with a one person on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and somebody different on a Thursday and Friday you have to ensure they follow the same consistent handling plan!

To help with this top tip, document all consistent areas of the classroom and remind staff and students of the rules on a regular basis.

If ambition is the path to success, persistence is the vehicle you arrive in!

Following on from consistency, if you decide to try something new in your classroom make sure you persist to give it a fair try. I was always told ‘it takes 3 weeks to change a behaviour’ and I strongly stand by this. You may implement a new lesson which goes absolutely disastrously on the first attempt – but don’t give up! It may be you need to either keep trying to get staff and students to understand what is expected, or, maybe by making a few very small ammendments you may make it work! I will give you an example…my first attempt at a pizza lesson with an extremely lively and fussy group of autistic students did not go as planned! 1 student didn’t make it into the room, 1 ate all of the ingredients that had been placed on the table as soon as he entered and 1 sat on the floor twiddling his hair the entire lesson. As a team, we pereservered and made it to the end of the term with each and every student participating in pizza making (although not all ate it!)…at some point I’ll try to remember to upload the lesson plan!

Have high, but realistic, expectations

I absolute detest when people are excluded from activities because of their ASD. Admittedly, there are some tasks which a person with autism may find difficult, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be exposed to activities and situations as a result. I once heard about a mother who very lovingly avoided all public toilets because her autistic son could not deal with hand dryers, but surely the ideal situation would be to introduce him slowly over time to hand dryers or provide him with a coping mechanism when he hears them, such as ear defenders or a fiddle toy.  Please have high expectations for your students and build upon small steps to allow them to reach their potential. Maybe your student who is petrified of assembly won’t sit in there for an hour within the first term, but wouldn’t being able to sit in there for 10 minutes by the end of the year be a massive success?

Communication is key

If you are reading this blog and already have an interest in autism, it will be pretty obvious to you that communication is an area a person with ASD may struggle with. As a facilitator of education, it is essential we provide adequate communication opportunities. I’ll talk at a later date about my love of visual communication, but for now I just advise you inform your class what is happening in their day (a visual schedule is ideal for this), even if it is a last minute change of plan. Make sure your lessons are differentiated to apply to all communication levels.

I could write forever, but think I will stop there for now as feel I may start to waffle and repeat myself! Hope this makes some sense to you all.