How to Adapt Books for Students with Autism / Special Needs

I have been creating tons of adapted books this year! Some of them I have written myself, such as my environmental print Fast Food book or the Shark Hygiene book. Other books I have taken apart, added symbols from Writing with Symbols or Board Maker, laminated, and added adapted pieces. I love making book interactive as it checks for comprehension and gives the student a clearer purpose for each page.
Here's a few of my adapted books. Hope they give you some ideas of all the possibilities!

A Very Hungry Caterpillar: I added exact words with symbols for all but the counting part - I simplified counting to Day of the Week, Number, Fruit. I found the pictures from the story online, laminated the book, bound it together, and added Velcro to the pieces.

Who Lives in the Arctic?: I love these simple scholastic readers! I added symbols on top of the words already written in the book. I found other pictures that describe the picture through clip art. This makes for a higher level comprehension, the student looks at the picture, the symbol, and has to then find the clip art of that same animal to add to the picture.

The Way I Feel: I added one sentence to each page (I feel ____ when _____). This is a great book for staff and students to read together. The staff reads all of the "regular" words, and the student can read the symbol sentence strip. The student chooses the correct feeling picture to add to each page.

My Messy Room: For this book, I also added the symbol right above the word. I love the adapted pieces for this book, because the sentences specify where the item goes (ex. I like my shirts on my dresser). This is one of my older books - before I discovered the book binding machine!!!

Cars book - Old, New, Red, Blue: This one I taped the symbols to each book. I have not laminating this one or added additional symbols. Not sure if I will, but it is a possibility. Adding the symbol to the story makes reading less intimidating for many of my students.

Frog's Lunch: Another book that I did not laminate or add interactive pieces too, just the symbols. How the words were on the page determined whether I covered them up or added the symbols on top or below (example: paragraphs, I covered the entire thing).

Fast Food Restaurants: And sometimes the book you want just doesn't exist, so you have to make it yourself, like I did with this Fast Food Restaurant book. (And if you want this book, you can find it here at my TPT store).

And those are just a small sample of my books in my classroom! So do you have any questions about adapting books? Or do you have any other ways that you adapt books? I'd love to hear about them!

To get symbols for some of these adapted books and others, check out my posts HERE for free symbols to download!


  1. These are FANTASTIC!!! I love adapted books and I love these ideas!

    1. Thanks so much Erin. They are addicting to make :) And I actually just added a new one to our collection, called Community Helpers by Erin Stevenson-Bennett! :)

  2. I love these! You did a great job!

  3. I like the idea of the adapted books. I really like the life skills ones you have made. The biggest struggle I have is that we are strongly encouraged to use grade appropriate books. They (higher up) are discouraging the use of picture books in the higher grades. WHat do you do to make sure things are age appropriate?

  4. Some of my students are loving the Frozen book. I bought a simpler level, also from Frozen, and am making symbols to velcro in for the opposites that are emphasized. Inspired to work up a winter unit using these stories, art activities, our winter bird feeding/observing and etc.

  5. On the idea of age appropriateness, my own typically developing 22 year-old and her friends still watch Disney movies, so I am using picture books with Disney themes for special needs teens without any guilt.

  6. These are great! Would it be possible for you to send me the symbols? I could use these with my students in my FSD (autism) class.

    1. Which books do you have that you would like the symbols to? Just let me know!

      On this post I have some of the Step-into-Reading book symbols posted:


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