Curriculum Modification for Students with Special Needs

Curriculum modification is an educational strategy that allows special needs students to have better access to information and resources. Read all about it here!
Curriculum Modification for Students with Special Needs
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Curriculum modification consists of the adjustments educators make to curriculums to make them accessible for students with special needs. Educators classify curriculum modification as a type of educational strategy. In a nutshell, they’re a set of resources designed to allow special needs students to have better access to information.

In this regard, educators have to be aware of the student’s individual traits when they’re planning the class methodology, content, and assessment. They make the necessary changes to adapt their curriculum to the particular characteristics of that student. The goal is to make the content more accessible to students who have some kind of learning barrier. They may also completely eliminate certain elements of the curriculum for a student if they simply can’t grasp them.

When Do Teachers Resort to Curriculum Modification?

The basic elements of any curriculum are the goals, content, and evaluation criteria. Teachers use these three factors to design and execute their curriculums and their curriculum modifications.

The first thing you have to know is how to differentiate between the two kinds of modifications. The difference lies in whether or not the educator makes changes to the basic elements we just mentioned. If they do, they’re making significant modifications. If not, they’re making non-significant modifications.

A teacher with her students at school.

Non-Significant Curriculum Modification

In this case, the teacher doesn’t make changes to the basic elements of the curriculum. However, they do change:

  • The organization or methodology.
  • The students’ general environment.
  • Minor content.

Within these guidelines, the modifications only affect things such as the kinds of activities or the evaluation method. They never affect educational goals. Those will be exactly the same as they are for all the other students.

Consequently, there won’t be any repercussions in the child’s evaluation or whether or not they go pass to the next grade.

Significant Curriculum Modifications

On the other hand, significant curriculum modifications are those that change the basic elements of the curriculum.

An educator may resort to them when the student’s traits in relation to the school environment make it impossible for them reach the proposed class goals. These needs are called specifics of educational support.

In that situation, the child can only move on to the next grade if they reach certain concrete objectives. These objectives are specified at the beginning of the semester in the individual curriculum modification.

If the student doesn’t reach their goals, their school might make them repeat a grade so they can have another opportunity to meet the requirements to pass. Not only that, but repeating a grade can also be beneficial for the child’s social skills.

A girl studying.

Social Aspects and Other Characteristics of Curriculum Modification

The implementation process for curriculum modification is very important. A team of professionals involved in the educational process should make the decision. It’s also essential for all the decisions to be recorded in writing.

The basis of this practice is focused on the idea of social inclusion. The idea that no one should be discriminated against, no matter their differences or abilities. Everyone should have an equal opportunity to get an education and develop themselves professionally. Carina Paniagua, author of Curricular Modifications, believes that inclusion encompasses listening, dialoguing, cooperating, and asking questions. Inclusion means accepting, trusting, and embracing the needs of diversity.

Inclusive systems assume that everyone has unique skills and abilities and that everyone can learn. It’s a continuous process, observable in participatory practices and actions built on the foundation of freedom.

Talking about curriculum modifications is one thing, but actually carrying them out can be quite complex. There are some consequences to graduating from high school with a modified curriculum. For example, a student in that situation wouldn’t be eligible for certain government programs.

That’s why it’s so important to seek professional help if you’re trying to navigate this kind of situation. Everyone involved should think carefully before making any decisions about curriculum modification.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.