Five different types of calendars used with children who are deafblind: (l-r) daily calendar with object symbols, anticipation calendar with object symbols, daily calendar with pictures, daily calendar with expansion strips, calendar using object symbols.
Five different types of calendars used with children who are deafblind: (l-r) daily calendar with object symbols, anticipation calendar with object symbols, daily calendar with pictures, daily calendar with expansion strips, calendar using object symbols.

A calendar is the physical “thing” that enables us to keep track of time. These calendars are used to break up large chunks of time into more manageable events that can be labeled, and they also have additional attributes connected to them. A calendar can be a time placeholder used to teach the concepts of “now”, “finished”, “next”, days of the week, months of the year, etc. The most common types of timepiece calendars used with students who are deafblind (or visually impaired with additional disabilities) include Anticipation, Daily, Weekly, and Monthly calendars. Another type of timepiece calendar, the timeline, may be used with students who have developed a greater knowledge of tracking time such as years, decades, lifetimes, etc.

Calendars can serve many functions with regard to the development of time concepts and language acquisition. A calendar can function as a timepiece providing structure to the days events, as well as providing a static form of communication that can be referred to beyond the context of the current moment. Calendars can also give opportunities for social interaction by providing topics for conversation.

Be sure to allow enough time at the calendar – and think of it as its own (very important) activity.

Static and Dynamic Communication

It is helpful to think of communication in two forms: Static and Dynamic. Dynamic communication (think speech) is in the moment. It’s gone as soon as it’s here, never to be heard again. Static communication on the other hand is more permanent. Like words on a page or a photograph, it’s recorded and can be referred back to later. Through the use of a calendar system and the conversation that is attached, we can provide both of these forms of communication.

Our intention is for the calendar system information presented here to function on its own, or (even better) as a companion to the book Calendars for Students with Multiple Impairments Including Deafblindness by Robbie Blaha. We owe a great deal of thanks to Robbie for her support and knowledge and for allowing us to quote her book. Some of the information and text that you will find here was culled from that book; other parts come from our experiences and the experiences of other colleagues and families.

Before you begin a calendar system with a child:

    • Develop relationship/interaction style.
    • Design a schedule of effective routines.
    • Assess the child’s readiness for a particular type of calendar (see the assessment tool in Calendars for Students with Multiple Impairments Including Deafblindness ).
    • Determine the appropriate static and dynamic communication forms.
    • Determine where the calendar will live and how it will be set up according to your student’s needs.
    • Schedule calendar conversation time into the day before and after each activity.

A Word about Schedules

Children who are deafblind or who have visual and multiple impairments benefit greatly from a consistent schedule. So, before you try to set up any type of calendar system, it is important to determine what the child’s schedule is. Begin with the child’s arrival at school or (if you are doing a calendar for home) begin when they wake up. Look at significant activities that take place throughout the day and note the approximate time each will occur. We say “approximate” because it is important to proceed through activities at a pace that is suited to the child as much as possible. Some preferred activities may need to run a bit longer some days and other non-preferred activities may need to be done quickly.

There are some activities that must occur at a specific time, such as meals, bedtime, therapies and so forth. It might be helpful to note those first when designing the child’s schedule. Try to organize the child’s day if possible with activities that utilize both gross and fine movement. Children, especially at the earliest developmental levels, learn by doing, not by sitting. When the child is developmentally able, the typical desk activities can be used.

Design the day and each activity with clear beginnings and endings. This helps the child anticipate and be prepared for a transition to a new activity or location.

Representing the Activity

Consider what will represent the activity to the child. At the earliest level of communication the child might rely on object cues for the form of communication that is used in the calendar. Some children will progress to parts of the object, object symbols, print, or braille over time. It is important that the representation used in the calendar is meaningful to the child. Make a point to observe what thing or action used in the activity the child focuses on and associates with the activity. For example, bath time could be represented by a washcloth, sponge, soap, rubber ducky or other things. What does the child pay attention to most?

Some activities do not readily lend themselves to an object symbol. You may have to use your imagination and offer an object that can become meaningful to the child. For example, traveling to school in the family car might be represented by the child’s backpack or a trinket that is attached to the backpack. Miniature cars are often not meaningful to a child who is deafblind and at an early developmental level.  Be sure that the object that is selected has meaning to the child.  Make sure the child has an opportunity to explore this object each time to help create an association with the object and the activity of traveling to school.


Cookie Conversation: TVI Chris Montgomery has a conversation at Ray’s calendar, before starting an activity of making cookies. You should note that the interaction is the primary focus. This is an opportunity for Ray to let Chris know what he enjoys and to take the lead on the interaction. Note the measuring cup represents the activity, but during the discussion other materials used in the activity are explored.


Blaha, Robbie and Hurst, Kate Moss, 1997. Let Me Check My Calendar, SeeHear Newsletter, TSBVI Outreach Programs.

Calendar Systems, OHOA Modules, National Center on Deafblindness

Types of Calendars, South Dakota Deaf-Blind Program

How to Make a Cardboard Calendar Box

Scott Baltisberger demonstrates how to create a low cost cardboard calendar box that is sturdy and light-weight.

Part 1

Part 2