A child reading an adapted book for autism.

For many learners, traditional books with static, unmoving pages printed on thin sheets of paper can be unengaging and difficult to use. Adapted books are adjusted to be interactive and accessible to students of all kinds. Books like these can help children with autism find an entry point to stories, learning, and literacy.

What Are Adapted Books?

Adapted books are defined by their modifications, which are done with the goal of making them easier to use for some students. There are many possible modifications designed to cater to students with different abilities, such as page spacers that set pages apart and make them easy to turn. Others might include special features, like physical objects glued to the page, that help engage students who are blind. Adapted books are generally made specifically by educators for use in their classrooms. They are a labor of love, made by hand to help reach students with different learning styles. Many of them focus on matching words and pictures to the pages in each book, in addition to making them physically easier to use. Velcro is popular for attaching these words and images so that students can see that they have an impact on the books they are reading.

How Do Adapted Books Help With Learning?

Accessible literacy is vital for the learning process. Typical books do not have the same kind of engagement as adapted books, especially for children with autism. Since they are created by teachers, they can cater to the lesson plan. Many of these books use repetition to help students remember the facts and new words in them. Different books contain different lessons aimed at teaching words, parts of speech or vocabulary. Adapted books for autism are often laminated and focus on matching images to words and sentences. What makes them truly unique is the interactive aspect of the books. Most pages ask students to match icons to the page and attach them with velcro. The visual component can be very helpful for students with autism. Books will come with a selection of icons to choose from, often including a key of choices for each page. This interactive style keeps students engaged and also allows the teacher to see their work and progress, without needing to use worksheets.

What Kind of Activities Are Found in Adapted Books?

A child reading an adapted book in a special ed classroom.

Since adapted books are made by teachers themselves, there are many kinds of books that focus on many different types of activities and learning. Subjects can range from the weather to animals, with interactive pages about verbs, counting and more. Asking students to contribute to the page helps them develop their own language skills as they are learning. One way this interactivity is used is to fill in the blank style sentence building. If a lesson is focused on pronouns, a sentence may say: ___ collects butterflies. The student will need to select the correct pronoun from a selection of words with velcro backing: he, she, it or they. The correct choice depends on the picture included on the page. Another format used in adaptive books for autism focuses on picture matching. Picture matching asks students to find the icon that matches a picture in the book and attach it with velcro. If the page is about horses, students will find the picture of a horse and attach it to the book. Other on-page activities may be about vocabulary, and require students to match vocabulary with the page it appears on. Doing these matching exercises as they read the story helps reinforce new information and new words. Some students may benefit from more tactile learning. Adapted books may feature zip bags filled with objects that aim to recreate a texture in the book. Pebbles, feathers, pieces of bark, mirrors and other small items may be included to increase tactile engagement.

Do Teachers Adapt Existing Books?

In some cases, teachers may want to make an adapted version of a classic book for students to enjoy. Classics such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Goodnight Moon and other books can easily be turned into adapted books. These adaptations have students answer questions about the books, to gauge their understanding and keep them focused. When modifying existing books, teachers usually add questions that will help with reading comprehension. Who is on the page, what is happening and when is it happening? Those three questions are vital to understanding any text. When teachers ask these questions in adapted books, they can be easily represented with images that correspond to the text. Students can match images to the questions on the page, and for many students, images may be easier to remember than words.

What About Using Adapted Books at Home?

As the education system learns more about autism, resources designed to benefit children with autism have become more common. Adapted books for autism typically take some assembly, but they can be found as downloadable PDFs online through web stores and resource centers for teachers. Making an adapted book can be as simple as modifying a book you already own, similar to the process described above. Others are created from scratch to fulfill a lesson plan. Parents who want to use adapted books with their children may want to ask their teachers about where to find resources and how to put the books together. Adapted books are a helpful tool for teaching students with autism. These books introduce new information without overwhelming students, and they can follow along and respond on each page to improve information retention. Learn more about strategies used to teach at Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center of Learning by contacting us today.