Why You Should Be Using Adapted Books in Your Classroom - The Autism Helper

Why You Should Be Using Adapted Books in Your Classroom

“What are adapted books and how/why should I use them?”  This is a question I often get from teachers or therapists when I share about some of the adapted books I have created.  I shared about adapted books last summer when Sasha and I did our literacy series but I thought it might be a good review and new information for others less familiar with adapted books.  Adapted books are books that have been modified in some way and often make it easier for students with disabilities to use but I also find adapted books are more engaging for all students to read and target so many critical language skills.  I create and use adapted books all the time because they are interactive, motivating, and target various language skills.  Many allow the students to feel successful and part of the book because they have to add or move pieces within the book.  I use adapted books all the time for therapy.

Adapted books can vary in skill level and be used for a wide variety of students with different skill sets and literacy skills.  Easier adapted books are often repetitive in nature which helps increase student participation and the repetition helps with retention of new information.  Many times there are pictures associated with the vocabulary terms so it provides those extra visual supports to help with understanding and comprehension of the verbal message.  The language is simple and usually target a specific concept or have a theme.  As the books become more challenging students rely less on pictures and more on the written words.  The books may have multiple concepts being targeted in the book.

As you think about selecting adapted books to use with your students think about your students’ skill levels.  If you are going to use the book during an independent work station, then the student should be able to complete the book independently without almost any errors.  If you are going to use the book for therapy or teacher time then you can focus on selecting concepts that are emerging and you want to target with your student.  For example, I won’t select a preposition adapted book for a student who is still working on object identification, color concepts, and matching.  At this time prepositional concepts would be too abstract and have no meaning for the student.

I’ll give you a few example of some of the different adapted books which target different skill levels.  For some of my younger or lower functioning students I would select a book in which the student is working on learning new common vocabulary concepts and more matching.  In the book “What Bugging You?  School Supplies”, the student has to match the bug to the correct school supply item on each page.  Each word is in a different box and many words have a picture paired with the word so if the student was verbal he/she may be able to say one of the words while you are reading the book.

For this particular book, the student is just matching the bug to the correct school supply item from the picture on the bottom of the page.  This seems easy but it can be very challenging for some of our lower functioning students and using this book still targets many important language skills.  The student needs to attend to the book, discriminate between pictures, and process the auditory message.  The student can work on turning the page, pointing to the words or pictures on the page, and naming items.  I have many of my limited verbal communicators often start saying the “oh no” phrase on the bottom of the page especially since I have several different “What’s Bugging You?” books I can use with students working on this level.

Another book I often use for this level is “Farmer, Farmer What Do You See?”  Again, for this book the student is working on discriminating between the different animals and matching the correct animal picture to the picture in the book.  For some of my student I need to reduce the visual choice to 2 animal pictures because they are not ready to discriminate between all the pictures.  This book is great to model those animal concepts and their corresponding animal sounds.

Working on prepositions?  I have several adapted books which focus on prepositional concepts and range in skill level.  In the book “Where is the Kitten?” the student places the kitten in the correct location in the book related to the object on the page.  I would use this book for students who are beginning to understand and work on prepositional concepts.

To make it more challenging try the book “Where is the Butterfly?”  Now the student has to find the correct symbol/word to determine where the butterfly is on each page.  This is also good for student using AAC devices because the prepositional symbols are similar to those on AAC devices and the student can work on finding the prepositional concept on their device too.

For your higher functioning students you could use a book with less visual supports.  For example, “I Spy Kitchen Tools” gives the student a description of the targeted kitchen tool with no additional visual supports.  The student has to select the correct kitchen tool from a visual field of 4 pictures to match the given description.  If your student is verbal and can read, have the student read the book.  This is also good to use with non-verbal students who have high receptive skills because you can read the sentence and the student can select the correct picture.

Once you have the adapted book set up to use, you can use it multiple times with your student especially if they are learning the concept and not getting it correct the first time.  If you haven’t tried using adapted books with your student, I suggest giving it a try.  It definitely keeps my students more engaged then just reading a regular book and gives you another means to teach targeted concepts.  If you want more example on some of the different types of adapted books click the links from my blog posts from last summer.


  1. Good Morning Sarah,
    First of all, I LOVE your adapted books!!!! This year was my first teaching Autistic students and I loved it. We were a Middle School class who also learned Life Skills. I think that the books would be very useful in my class and want to know how to make them. Can you please help me in my quest? Thank you in advance and have a great day!!!
    Kathy James
    Exceptional Education Teacher
    Vernon Johns Middle School

  2. I bpught several of your lower level books and the preposition books. I just finished putting them together, they look great. I can’t wait to use them next year. My boys will love them, sorry I only have boys. I plan on looking for some for higher level readers.

  3. Enjoy!


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