In educational sciences, it is increasingly considered that participation and learning within schools not only depends on children adapting to school activities ; but that the school itself has the responsibility to adapt to the children’s conditions.

From this approach, different pedagogical proposals have emerged to address the diversity of forms of learning and participation. One of them is the curricular adaptations .

What are curriculum adaptations?

Curricular adaptations, also known as curriculum adaptations, are one of the strategies that pedagogy has developed to reduce barriers to learning and child participation.

The word “curriculum” comes from “curriculum” (which means “career” in Latin), and refers to the educational plans or projects that shape educational activities. In this sense, a curriculum allows us to answer the questions of what is taught and how is it taught? This may vary according to the school or educational systems.

Thus, a curriculum adaptation consists broadly of planning and making the appropriate modifications to a curriculum (for example, to the first-year primary education programme) to favour the learning and participation of one or more children .

In which cases are they necessary?

Curricular adaptations may be necessary in the case that a child has difficulties in acquiring skills or knowledge at the speed demanded in a school through the official curriculum (in this case we could say that there is a barrier to learning).

But not only that, it can also happen that a school needs to adapt the conditions of its space (the architecture), so that the children can access the educational programs. For example, in the case of someone with reduced mobility.

Or children may be experiencing emotional conflict and this may impact on their academic performance, which could be counteracted if the curriculum has some flexibility.

These last cases are barriers to participation, and although do not imply a direct modification of the educational programme , they are important because the participation of children is one of the necessary conditions to facilitate their access to the curriculum.

Types of curricular adaptations

There are several types of curricular adaptations, each depending on the child’s own condition and also on the conditions of the school or education system.

1. Access adaptations (or scheduling the classroom)

Access adaptations are those that, as their name indicates, allow children to be incorporated into educational spaces . They can be of two types, access adaptations in relation to physical condition, or access adaptations in relation to communication.

1.1. Condition-related access adaptations

They consist of reviewing the means and resources that prevent or allow the child to access the curriculum for reasons of mobility or communication. This means adapting the physical spaces of the schools, providing the necessary technological support and ensuring that there is adequate furniture, so that all children can be guaranteed access to classrooms, gardens, etc.

1.2. Access adaptations in relation to communication

They imply taking into account that throughout their development, children may have different difficulties in communicating with others, both orally and in writing .

Also, in the case of children with both sensory and intellectual/motor disabilities, there may be difficulties in communicating. An example of access adaptation in this case is to promote augmentative and alternative communication systems and the use of resources such as symbols, the sign system, the use of hearing aids, the Braille system, or electronic or pictorial boards, which among other things can facilitate children’s expression and understanding.

In sum, access adaptations can be facilitated by asking how travel, communication and interactions are promoted within the educational environment.

2. Adaptations of the elements of the curriculum

These adaptations consist of making modifications directly to the educational curriculum. It is a process that must be done gradually and with the participation of both the children involved and the teaching staff.

Its development can be subdivided into four general stages: diagnosis, design, implementation and evaluation . However, these stages, their course and their completion depend very much on both the person who proposes them and the people who will put them into practice.

2.1. Diagnosis: why do we need a curriculum adaptation?

It is a question of knowing the institutional conditions, that is, the support that the school has within its community, as well as identifying the knowledge of the teaching staff on the education plans that are applied according to the school year.

It also involves conducting a psycho-pedagogical evaluation, not only of the child, but also of the real possibilities for teachers to make an adjustment and to follow up. In the same vein, identifying the child’s condition, that is, the reasons why access to learning is being made difficult. Finally, know the area of nearby development , its needs and interest, so that prudent and realistic objectives can be set.

2.2. Design: how to compensate for the situation?

After having analyzed the normative documents, the educational plans in force, the school conditions and the needs of the children, it is necessary to prioritize the situation that needs to be compensated through a curricular adaptation , and from there generate a proposal. For example, in some cases it is a priority for the child to acquire academic knowledge, and in others it is more necessary to stimulate social skills.

It is then a matter of developing the proposal together with the teaching team, so that a monthly, bimonthly or annual curriculum is planned according to the needs of the educational context, and adapting this proposal to the needs and the area of proximate development of the child.

2.3. Implementation: putting it into practice

It consists of starting to use the didactic units programmed for the determined time, and above all to implement them in a gradual way. Also to provide the materials, the detailed strategies and to consider the form of evaluation or assessment that will be carried out .

2.4. Constant assessment

Finally, it is necessary to assess the access that the child has to the curriculum, both in terms of mobility and communication, and the ease with which he or she can now acquire the knowledge that we have set out to achieve. Likewise, detecting new difficulties, both of the child himself, as well as of the teachers and the educational community , so that it is possible to propose prudent alternatives.

Bibliographic references:

  • Basic Directorate of Special Basic Education. (2007). Manual de Adaptaciones Curriculares. Ministry of Education: Peru
  • Puigdellívol, I. (1996). Classroom programming and curricular adaptation: the treatment of diversity. Graó: Barcelona