Adaptations: Thriving with Special Needs

Being a mom of special needs has taught me to see the world differently. Part of loving my child means celebrating where they are right now, instead of getting lost in other people’s expectations. This means not giving up, and changing the way we approach things. I want to share a bit about what this means for our lives, and I will include an example of how to adapt a common children’s toy.

Special needs means our life doesn’t look like other peoples, but I wouldn’t change a thing. We may skip loud birthday parties, pack our entire kitchen when traveling because of food selectivity, and I have a medical bag instead of a designer purse. We try, we fail, and we adapt. It’s not an easy life, but it is a good life.

Getting Stuck

Our society has a long way to go when it comes to making adaptations for those with special needs, children’s toys are no different.

I have been working for months and months with my daughter, Libby, on using the classic shape sorter.

Her therapists have all tried to help me, but it wasn’t clicking. We both got frustrated. Something had to change.

Change the Environment, not the Child

Instead of asking Libby to change and force her to use this toy the way it was intended, why not change the toy to fit her needs?

Making adaptations is actually quite simple:
Change the way you TEACH, not the way your child LEARNS.

Here is an example of what I did, and I hope it helps you think outside the box when it comes to helping your children learn.


Here is what you will need:

-Glue Sticks
Textured Shapes
-Colored paper that matches shape colors
-Plain paper for covering box

You can find these textured sensory shapes by click here.


  1. Tape box closed except for one opening to remove shapes.

2. Cover box in plain paper to remove unnecessary distractions.

I suggest using cardstock to prevent wear and tear.

3. Trace shapes in their corresponding matching colored paper. Make sure you trace larger than your actual shape!

4. Cut holes in colored shape, being sure to leave a small border.

Adapted Shape Sorter

5. PLAY!!!!

The twins REALLY enjoy playing with this, and the concept immediately clicked for Libby!

Watching my daughter light up after understanding how to match the shapes made this project entirely worth it!

Different NOT less

Forget what anyone else thinks. You are your child’s best advocate, and you know them. When they get stuck, trouble shoot and figure out how you can adapt whatever activity they are struggling through.

Want more ideas or inspiration? Visit our Sensory Silliness page or contact us directly!