Calendars Support Social Interaction

A young girl and her teacher have a conversation about activities during calendar time.
A young girl and her teacher have a conversation about activities during calendar time.

Calendars can provide an abundance of opportunities for social interaction and conversation. When we stop to reflect on the conversations we have throughout our day, it’s interesting to think about how many of them are related to something that happened in the past or something that is scheduled to happen in the future. Our calendar of events forms the basis for many of our interaction topics.

Children who are deafblind or have visual and multiple disabilities often have difficulty introducing a topic of conversation. The calendar offers them tangible (and often tactile) support to talk about an event that has or will occur as a way to introduce a topic for conversation. You may find over time that the student will go to their calendar to “tell” you about something they want to do or don’t want to do and to bring up topics they need to talk about with someone. For example, to let you know they are concerned about when dad will come to take them home from school.

In addition to opportunities for social interaction, calendars can serve many functions with regards to the development and acquisition of new language. A calendar can help in understanding the concepts of time, and provide structure to those concepts. They provide a static form of communication that can be referred to beyond the context of the current moment.

Using the calendar as a time for conversations:

    • Calendars should be thought of as a vehicle for discussing (previewing and reviewing) the activities and events of the day.
    • Include a time in the child’s schedule to preview the calendar first thing in the morning, and a time to review the calendar before going home at the end of the day.
    • Don’t be afraid to allow plenty of time for your calendar conversation. Your student will start to understand that this is a time for acquiring more information and sharing thoughts about experiences.

Calendars support social conversations by:

    • Giving the student something to anticipate (a reason to look outside the body).
    • Giving the student access to the instructor for an extended length of time, and increasing positive attention-getting strategies.
    • Providing the student with immediate feedback in their efforts to communicate.
    • Giving the student an opportunity to practice conversation skills, especially expressive communication skills. Calendar conversations should be scheduled daily and may occur multiple times throughout the day.

Calendars between home and school:

Using calendars both at school and at home is a great idea, but you need to keep some consistency between the two calendars.

    • Good communication between home and school will be very important in order to facilitate consistency. The goal should be to keep the calendar systems, signed words, vocalizations, and symbols consistent between home and school. You don’t have to use the EXACTLY same calendar, but it should be the same format (i.e. object symbols at school = object symbols at home).
    • Use the “Calendar key” example to align signed words, vocalizations, and symbols. If there are additions, or changes, make sure it is communicated among the team.

Calendar Key

A calendar that is used with a child who is deafblind or visually and multiply impaired will be unique to that child. In order to make sure that anyone having contact with that child during the day understands what each symbol represents and how it is used, developing a key to the calendar can be helpful.  You may want to use some type of form that is posted near the calendar so everyone is on the same page.

Download the Calendar Key Template Microsoft Word document.

Video Example: Using the Calendar as Social Context

A daily calendar example that led to a trip to the drum store with TVI Matt Schultz and others.