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10 activities for students with special education needs

More than 7 million students, or about 15% of those ages 3 to 21, received special education services in the 2020-21 school year under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

To ensure the quality of special education services and meet the many needs in their classrooms, teachers must invest a considerable amount of time in tailoring lessons and materials to their students.

In fact, what makes the role of a special educator especially challenging is the number and diversity of needs in a classroom. Teachers must support not only the academic needs of their students, but also communication, behavioral and physical needs, among others. However, special education teachers often operate without adequate materials to address these needs.

According to a survey conducted by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) 72% of teachers of students with special needs modify their curriculum to support their individualization either most of the time or always. Moreover, teachers rank adequate resources requirements as the most important criteria for their success.

The lack of materials places a significant extra burden on teachers. Therefore, here are 10 activities developed to help learners with special needs achieve a higher level of self-sufficiency and success in school and in their community.

Activities for students with special education needs

Below you will find 10 exercises developed for special education teachers under the principles of ecological validity and generalizability with the aim of unlocking students’ potential by addressing their special needs through cognitive stimulation activities in the classroom.

You will be able to customize and adapt the activities to their needs and capabilities increasing students’ motivation and engagement, thus enhancing their performance.  

1. Word Fishing

What does it consist of?

The first activity to work with special needs students that we present is Word Fishing. In this game students have to make words by putting syllables or individual letters in the correct order. It is divided into six levels of difficulty. They will automatically move up or down a level depending on his or her successes or mistakes.

We show you an example in the following video.

Activity customization

You will be able to customize this activity to meet the individual needs and capabilities of each child, being able to set the general features and parameters.

General features

On the one hand, you can adjust general features such as the number of exercises, the maximum time, whether or not you want a visible timer for the activity and an inactivity warning, or you can modify the instructions if you wish.

Parameters

And, on the other hand, the parameters, where you can select:

What does this activity work?

This activity works:

2. Who raised their hand?

What does it consist of?

In this activity children have to remember the order in which the classmates raised their hands to ask for a turn to speak and reproduce it. We show you an example below.

Activity customization

You will be able to customize this activity and set the general features and parameters:

General features

You can adjust general features such as the number of exercises, the maximum time, whether or not you want a visible timer for the activity, the number of tries and an inactivity warning, or you can modify the instructions if you wish.

Parameters

And, on the other side, the parameters, where you can select:

What does this activity work?

This special needs activity works:

3. Correct Image Name

What does it consist of?

Correct Image Name is a worksheet in which students must determine which word matches the image shown.

Work by levels

In addition, this exercise has different levels of difficulty so that the teacher can adapt the activity to the needs of each student with special needs: basic, easy, medium, difficult and advanced.

Here is an example of a medium level worksheet to work with people with special education needs.

Format

This worksheet is available in both digital and paper format.

What does this activity work?

This activity works on discrimination.

4. Get Dressed

What does it consist of?

Another NeuronUP activity for k-12 students with special needs to work on ADLs that we highlight is Get Dressed. In this game they have to appropriately dress a mannequin in terms of the order and placement of the items of clothing as well as the type of situation.

In the example below, students have to dress the woman for a special occasion.

Activity customization

You will be able to customize the activity to suit the special needs and abilities of each student.

General features

On the one hand, you can set general features. Here you can delimit the number of exercises, the maximum time, whether or not you want a visible timer for the activity and an inactivity warning, or you can modify the instructions.

Parameters

And, on the other hand, the parameters, where you can select:

What does this activity work?

5. Pack your Backpack

What does it consist of?

This daily living activity involves packing the backpack for school by selecting only the objects necessary for that day of school. The aim of the game is that the children with special education needs don’t forget anything, but also they don’t have to pack things that they won’t need. Here is a medium level example.

Activity customization

You will be able to customize this activity to suit the individual needs and abilities of each child and set the general features and parameters:

General features

In this ADL you can adjust general features such as the number of exercises, the maximum time, whether or not you want a visible timer for the activity and an inactivity warning, or you can modify the instructions if you wish.

Parameters

And in terms of parameters you can select:

What does this activity work?

This special needs resource works:

6. Pocket Money

What does it consist of?

This exercise is a generator. Generators allow you to create unlimited and ecological activities. The student can never memorize the answer, since each instance is different. This special education activity consists of selecting the amount of money requested. An example is shown below.

Activity customization

You will be able to customize this activity to suit the students’ individual needs and abilities. In addition, you can setup the general features and parameters.

General features

In this generator you can configure general features such as the operation (correction or free mode and maximum errors allowed), the maximum time, whether or not you want a visible timer for the activity and an inactivity warning. Moreover, you will be able to modify the instructions if you wish.

Parameters

As for the parameters, you can select:

What does this activity work?

7. What is the best thing to do?

What does it consist of?

This worksheet consists of analyzing a situation and seeing what would be the right way to behave in it. Life is full of choices, and it is not always easy to make the right one. By showing different cases adapted to reality and giving them several behavioral options, we teach children to question several aspects of situations they may encounter in their daily lives and weigh the consequences of their decisions.

Work by levels

What is better to do? is organized into five levels of difficulty: basic, easy, medium, difficult and advanced.

In the following video we show you an example of how to work with this activity with students with special education needs.

Ways to work with this special education resource

Correction mode: the platform corrects the student after each action.
Free mode: the platform does not correct the student until the end of the exercise.

Format

This worksheet is available is also available on paper format for you to work with your students.

What does this activity work?

This activity works on social cognition.

8. Space Conquest

What does it consist of?

In this set in space game, students have to jump between the moving planets until they arrive to their final destination. As in all NeuronUP games, the difficulty levels up and down automatically according to their progress. In addition, the professional can choose the level manually. In this image we show you a medium level example to work with students with special needs.

Activity customization

This special needs activity can be customized to meet the needs and abilities of each student. You can also establish the general features and parameters.

General features

In this game you can adjust general features such as the number of exercises, the maximum time, whether or not you want a visible timer for the activity, an inactivity warning and you can customize the instructions.

Parameters

You can customize some parameters such as:

What does this activity work?

This game works on:

9. That’s Odd!

What does it consist of?

This generator consists of categorizing numbers as odd or even. It is an activity for students with special needs to become familiar with numbers before learning to do counting. Below you will find an example.

Activity customization

You can tailor this activity to the students’ individual needs and abilities and you can set the general features and parameters.

General features

In this generator you can set up general features such as the operation (correction or free mode and maximum errors allowed), the maximum time, whether or not you want a visible timer for the activity and an inactivity warning. In addition, you can modify the instructions.

Parameters

You can customize the following parameters:

What does this activity work?

This activity works semantic memory.

10. Waiter in Action

What does it consist of?

Special education students, who take on the role of waiters, have to pay attention to the different dishes ordered in a restaurant in this activity. They must serve each customer the ordered dish and be attentive as the dishes will change. The game is divided into various levels. Level 1 being the easiest and level 9 being the most complicated. In the following video you can find an example of how to work with this exercise:

Activity customization

This special education resource can be customized to meet the needs and capabilities of each student. General features and parameters can also be set.

General features

In this game you can configure general features such as the number of exercises, the maximum time, whether or not you want a visible timer for the activity and an inactivity warning, or you can personalize the instructions.

Parameters

In addition, you can edit specific parameters such as:

What does this activity work?

Waiter in Action works on:

Extra activity to work with students with special needs: Hidden Code

What does it consist of?

Hidden Code is the last activity to work at the classroom with students with special education needs consists of finding as quickly as possible the numbers that stay still among a group of numbers that are constantly changing.

For example, in the following medium level exercise students have to discover the hidden 4-digit code.

Activity customization

You will be able to customize this activity and set the general features and parameters.

General features

You can set, on the one hand, the general features such as the number of exercises, the maximum time, whether or not you want a visible timer for the activity and an inactivity warning, or you can modify the instructions if you wish.

Parameters

And, on the other hand, the parameters, where you can select:

What does this activity work?

Bibliography

Fowler, S. A., Coleman, M. R. B., & Bogdan, W. K. (2019). The State of the Special Education Profession Survey Report. Arlington, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). Students With Disabilities. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved June 23, 2022, from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/cgg

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