So, how might you adapt a grade-level textbook religious education lesson for a child with special needs? Here are some handy tips to help you along the way.


  1. Read through the Children’s Book lesson.
  2. Read through the Teacher Guide lesson that accompanies the Children’s Book.
  3. Think about what you might be able to accomplish with the time you meet with the child. Can you teach the whole lesson during one session? Do you think it might take two sessions?  Plan with your time-frame in mind.


  1. Take an inventory of all of the learning tools you have, including balls, puzzles, pictures, toys, and so on. Gather the ones that might work well as you teach this grade-level Children’s Book lesson.
  2. Allow yourself the freedom to adjust the lesson in a way that will work well with your particular student.  Imagine alternative ways to share the information in the Children’s Book.
  3. Mark up the Children’s Book and Teacher Guide with sticky notes. Record notes for yourself about what and how you want to teach this lesson. For example:
  • Children’s Book: Mark the pictures in the children’s book that you want to talk about with the child.
  • Children’s Book: Mark the articles, features, or stories that you want to paraphrase or read aloud to the child.
  • Teacher Guide: Mark the spots where you want to veer away from the book and do an activity.
  • Teacher Guide: Mark the spots where you will use learning tools to help you teach. For example, maybe you’d like to use the dolls to act out a story with the child.
  1. In advance, gather all your materials and make any physical samples of art projects that you want the child to develop during the lesson.


When you work through the grade-level Children’s Book session with the child, consider doing the following to make the most of the lesson:

  • Make learning as active as possible, but in a way that will not raise the child’s anxiety.
  • Vary your vocal tone and volume to match the message of material you are reading aloud.
  • Make your face and voice congruent and match up with the content. For example when you are discussing something happy, look and sound happy.
  • Give the child plenty of time to respond to questions. Accept all forms of attempted communication including talking, gesturing, sign language, pointing to pictures, drawing, and so on.
  • Provide exact models of what you want the child to say or do.
  • Describe everything the child does using simple sentences.
  • Take breaks as needed. If a technique is working, move on.
  • Give verbal praise when an accomplishment or milestone has been reached.

Joellyn Cicciarelli is a national workshop presenter and the director of curricula development at Loyola Press, who oversaw and helped develop the Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit and the Adaptive Reconciliation Kit.