Simple Schoolwork Modifications or Adaptations to Help Children with Special Needs During School Closures

The US Department of Education released a new fact sheet (Read it HERE) on March 21st providing clarification on whether schools should wait until special access for students with disabilities can be arranged before attempting to provide online instruction or distance learning to students, in general. There are many who feel this is an attempt to deny FAPE to students who may not be able to access online tools like Zoom or Google Classroom, while other parents are glad for interactive lessons instead of packets or paper schoolwork for their children.  While the legal community has yet to weigh-in definitively, parents and caregivers are confronting the daily reality of educating their children at home without the benefit of a teaching degree or trained specialists to help. For this reason, I felt it was important to provide parents and caregivers with some tips and tricks for modifying school work to help children who may struggle with traditional methods of instruction.

Closed Captioning for Zoom or Google Classroom

Both Google Classroom (and Google Slides) and Zoom allow for closed captioning, both on the part of the creator, or host, and the viewer.  To use captioning live on Google Classroom, find the toolbar in the lower part of the screen and simply click on the “Captions” button.  Live captioning will begin to translate the speaker’s words into the text, perfect for kids with hearing difficulties, kids in noisy rooms (because we’re all home right now), or kids who need to both see and hear things to remember them better.  The folks at Ditch That Textbook have an easy video to show you how it’s done. Find it HEREImage result for closed captioning on google classroom

If you are using Zoom for meetings/class instruction, you can use captions by going to the menu screen and finding the Settings button.  If captions are available (and all teachers/admins SHOULD be enabling them), a small “CC” will be on the Settings button.  From there, you can choose your font size.

More instructions for using captions for Zoom meetings can be found on Zoom’s support page.  Click HERE to go there now.

You can also turn on captions for your browser, if that works best for your situation.  You can do so by using these shortcuts for your browser or computer.

  • Chrome OS or Windows: Ctrl + Shift + c
  • Mac: ⌘ + Shift + c

Other resources like YouTube, Kahoot and Kahn Academy offer captioning or are otherwise ADA compliant.

Modifying Worksheets

For some kids, working on an entire worksheet can be visually and mentally overwhelming.  Often times, simply the cutting the material in half, or in to bite-sized pieces, helps to manage the task and focus the effort.


Talk to teachers or administrators about how many problems or questions need to be answered for an assignment.  In my own experience, I reinforced the concept that half the practice problems done well was far more beneficial than all of them done poorly.

Modifications for Reading

Worksheets with lots of reading or books to be read at home can pose problems for kids who struggle to focus on the material.  Try using guided reading highlighters or highlighting tape for these assignments.  The highlighter focuses the student’s attention on the immediate area rather than all over the page.  I have used these with students who have ADHD, Autism spectrum disorders, or slow processing issues.  If I’m being honest though, almost all of my students have used them! Some kids just prefer to read that way!

Roylco Reading Highlight Strips

You can purchase guided reading highlighters at educational supply stores, some office supply stores or

Highlighter tape is great because it doesn’t leave any residue behind, so kids can use it to mark quotes to remember, answers to questions in a comprehension packet, or words they do not know and need to look-up or have defined for them.  Highlighter tape can also be used to mark maps, instructions on worksheets, and in text books.  Some students like me to mark their stopping point for reading for each day.  It has a variety of uses!

You can find it at Amazon, education stores and even some office supply stores.  Find it at Amazon HERE.

** A note about dictation. The practice of writing answers for students or having student write words as they are spoken aloud is a cornerstone of classical learning theory.  Students, including my own children, have learned more by reciting answers for me to transcribe or writing words that I have heard them say to me, as we discuss questions, but I wrote down at the time so they only had to focus their attention on discussing and not writing.  This is NOT ME DOING THEIR WORK, but rather me operating as a conduit for their ideas.  In a classroom setting, special education teachers may reword questions or give students options from which to select an answer, as acceptable modifications. You, too, may do this for your child.  Please know that dictation is no less credible of a modification so long as your child speaks the words and you write them for him/her.  The complex process of us thinking of an answer, organizing it in our brains and then “staging” it in our short-term memory (executive functioning) all before we put pen to paper and write the answer in it’s entirety is no easy task!  Do not feel like you are cheating by removing this hurdle for your child, especially when they may not have their usual supports in place at school.

Audiobooks or reading aloud to your child are a perfectly acceptable modification. In response to school closures across the country, is offering free audiobooks (Click here) for streaming.  If your child has a book to read for a class, you can certainly have them 1) listen instead of read, 2) listen while following along in the book, or 3) listen after they read for reinforcement.  My high school son likes to fall asleep listening to whatever book he is reading at the time.  He claims that this passive listening allows him to catch things he may have missed the first time he read it earlier in the day. Similarly, your son or daughter may need you to read aloud to them from textbooks, especially if they can not read quickly on their own or if they struggle with vocabulary words.  This is an acceptable modification and is done in classrooms all the time.

More Freebie links has a list of free or low-cost adaptive software that can be used to help visually impaired students, students who need voice-to-text assistance, as well as note-taking software and more.

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