How STEM Education Can Help Children With Special Needs

How STEM Education Can Help Children With Special Needs

You walk into your child’s classroom, just hoping…

  • He got along with his classmates.
  • His work was completed in class.
  • The teacher doesn’t want to sit you down to talk about behavioral issues again.

You are amazed to see him participating in a group activity rather than off to himself.

He is so attentive to the activity he doesn’t even notice you come in.

What could he possibly be doing that he enjoys so much?

He is building a bridge with straws, popsicle sticks, and legos during a STEM Education Activity.

He had a good day…


What is STEM Education?  

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  • In simplified terms, STEM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
  • STEM Education is a curriculum of teaching that combines two or more of these together.

A more formal definition from Nancy Tsupros (Director of STEM Services at CMU):

STEM is an interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with real-world lessons as students apply science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in contexts that make connections between school, community, work, and the global enterprise enabling the development of STEM literacy and with it the ability to compete in the new economy.” (Tsupros, 2009) 


Why is STEM Education Important? 

Recent studies show many of the future careers are going to have some form of STEM integration. As a Special Education teacher, I went to a conference, and one of the sessions was on STEM Education.

STEM can mean something different to each teacher and how they integrate it into their classroom. PreK and Kindergarten students may be exposed to legos or building time during their day.

Unfortunately, in upper grades, students may not necessarily be exposed to any STEM opportunities.

If your children are interested in the following activities, they need STEM exposure:

  • Video Games
  • Coding
  • Computers
  • Architecture
  • Construction Building


Benefits of STEM Integration


      • Students can create and use science, math, technology, and engineering in creative ways. Students also get to experiment and find a solution in their own unique way. 

Creates an environment of Resilience

      • Children need the opportunity to fail and know that they can try again. In many STEM activities at my conference, my group failed at the task. However, we were able to try again. 

Team Building

      • Many of the activities in STEM Education often require team building activities. In our middle school, they have a coding class in which the students have to work together to create a robot. 

Encourages students to show off their prior knowledge. 

      • Many students use their prior experience when solving problems. STEM activities require students to use their prior knowledge while also using higher-order thinking to solve the problem.


How STEM Education Can Help Children with Special Needs  

STEM education is an ongoing opportunity for students to use problem-solving skills and higher-level thinking in a fun way. Because most of the careers in the future will involve one of these subjects, it is essential to expose special needs children to STEM education.

A special needs child may be delayed in one subject like reading but be exceptional (and even gifted) in another like math. This is called Twice Exceptional. Participating in a subject he excels at will give him a sense of achievement that he doesn’t feel otherwise.

Not only are students with special needs capable of doing STEM activities, but they also enjoy them. And you know when a child enjoys something they will want to do it more.

Getting them to do educational activities is half the battle.

Taking part in the activities more often will help them retain what they learn.


Stem Activities to Try

Many of my current students LOVE Legos! Did you know that LEGOs often promote STEM? Legos are a great way to help students problem solve and use their higher-order thinking skills.

  • Lego Glasses

One of the activities that we learned about in the conference is giving students Lego Glasses within the first week of school. These special glasses allowed you to attach Legos to them.

The presenters discussed how students had to create their own pair of glasses based on their personalities. Letting students express themselves through Lego Glasses is incorporating STEM in a fun way.

  • PlayDoh

One way that you can integrate STEM education is by using PlayDoh. PlayDoh allows children to use their imagination to create things. PlayDoh may not be cool in the upper grades though.

  • Building Things

Allowing children to use Lincoln Logs, popsicle sticks, and pipe cleaners to create and build things from scratch is another fun way to incorporate STEM education.


Here are a few other great resources for finding STEM activities:


Here are a few Special Education Resources specifically for math and science you can work on together at home.


Is your child struggling in one of these areas? 

We offer one-on-one special education tutoring that can be done from anywhere you are! Why? Because our special education experts conduct their sessions online!

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How STEM Education Can Help Children With Special Needs
STEM education is an ongoing opportunity for students with special needs to use problem-solving skills and higher-level thinking in a fun way.

Picture of Taylor Fulcher

Taylor Fulcher


  1. Thank you for this helpful article on STEM education. My son has a speech delay and is very active. I can definitely see how this learning approach could be very helpful for him!

  2. LOL you are preaching to the choir here! I love how STEM activities can integrate kids of all different levels and abilities into the same activity. My LD daughter is especially into building things with her Legos (for hours on end!), and is as obsessed with her music practice as she is with practicing math (which, of course, reinforce each other nicely). And they SO help with behavioral problems. too, you’re right! – LD daughter is doing much better this year now that she is at a Montessori school where there is a lot more hands-on learning like what you describe above.

  3. What wonderful points. My husband was talking about possibly putting our daughter in a STEM school. I’ll have to look into it more.

  4. Great post on STEM activities. It’s nice to know that it is a helpful tool for kids with special needs. I can see a child with ASD excelling at STEM activities and improving their behavior through those activities.

  5. This a very informative article.. I am going to share in some of the mom groups I am part of.. Hoping it will come of help to mums and teachers alike. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Thank you so much for this informative article. I love STEM toys and there are many good ones available today. I have gotten a few for my god daughter as she loves those types of toys and I love that they are having fun while learning at the same time 🙂

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