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Activity and strategy

Adapting Puzzles for Students with Multiple Impairments

Tips to adapt puzzle pieces for children with multiple disabilities

When working with students with multiple impairments, finding materials to assist them with achieving their IEP goals can be difficult. I ordered these puzzles from Oakmont Visual Aids Workshop ( about 8 years ago. They’ve been used numerous times over the years. Unfortunately, it looks like they no longer make these puzzles. However, you can find puzzles like this in the stores or online, some with knobs, some without. After talking with the OT that works with this student, it was determined I needed to use a “mushroom” type knob on the puzzle pieces, so that my student would be able to use his finger tips to help him grasp the knob to move the puzzle piece into the puzzle.

  • 4 shape single puzzles
  • non-toxic paint
  • mod podge (or any other water-based sealer)
  • knobs (available at any hardware store.  I chose the cheapest which was $0.98 and came with screws.)
  • paint brushes
  • dremel or drill
  • sandpaper
  • screwdriver
  • non-slip drawer liner
  • glue


Four different shaped puzzles with knobsSide view of knob









I painted the puzzle and puzzle pieces to add contrast from the original natural pressed wood color. I used several coats (2-3 coats depending on the bleed through). Once dried, I used sandpaper to smooth the edges out. I then added two coats of mod podge to “seal” the paint and to make it smooth to the touch. Using a dremel, I drilled holes into the puzzle piece. Looking back, I would drill the holes before painting. Then I screwed the knobs in. Last, but not least, I glued non-slip drawer liner to the bottom to hold the puzzle base in place while my student works with it.

I have looked at some of the puzzles available for purchase. Based on my collaboration with my OT, I would probably rethink the knobs on those for this particular student, but this is what makes collaborations so powerful. The exchange of our knowledge base benefits of the students!

Collage of adapted puzzles


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