Provincial Outreach Program for Students with Deafblindness

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. There is so much to do, I don't have time for the calendar system. Does my student really need it?

The calendar system is an essential part of the learner's day because it drives language and concept development as well as indicating the sequence of activiites. The calendar system is the primary tool for learning for the student with deafblindness. It is not a modification or adaptation of an existing classroom schedule. It takes commitment and consistency to make the most effective use of the calendar system. In order to make the calendar system meaningful to the learner, time needs to be built in for active participation (in both setting up and daily use) and processing. The calendar session may be shorter or longer, depending on the student's interest and ability. It is key to include the student as an active participant in the session. For example:

  • Have the student help place the cues in the boxes
  • Model the language that goes with the cues with sign and voice ("It's time for music. You like music.")
  • Show the student the concept sign or gesture 

Making time for the calendar is time well spent for the learner with deafblindness.

2. We are traveling so much throughout the school. We don't have time to come back to the calendar at the end of every activity. What can I do?

It may be time to think about developping a more portable system. By reducing the size of the cues and calendar system, it makes it easier to take them with you. Here are some examples of portable systems.


In the above example, the calendar system is made from fabric.
The object cues are affixed with velcro and attach to the
colourful spots,
in sequence of how the day will go. The finished container is the

plaid, drawstring bag. The calendar system folds up and can tuck
into a pack on the back of a wheelchair
and the finished
bag can hang from the handle or back of the wheelchair as best
suits the situation.

In the above example, this picture calendar system folds up and is stored in a
binder. Picture cues are used to indicate the student's schedule. The
finished pouch (not pictured) is an envelope
at the back of the binder.

In this calendar system, the Intervenor wears the apron. The
cues (line drawings) are stored in the pouch on the left
and then put into the two pockets on the right, in sequence

3. My student knows his/her routine. Do we need to continue to use a calendar system?

People use calendar systems of some kind to keep track of appointments, routines, meetings, and special events. The learner with deafblindness also needs a way to keep track of these events in his/her life. There is security and comfort in having a schedule available especially, when you are not able to see or hear what is happening around you.

In addition to being able to anticipate the routine, it is important for the learner to learnt to cope with, and adapt to, changes. How do you explain special events, assemblies, or field trips? The calendar system can provide an opportunity to discuss changes and provide the possibility of an alternate activity. The learner can then anticipate the change and even exert some control over what s/he chooses to do. For example:

  • Gym class is cancelled. With the student, take the gym cue out of the calendar and put it in the finished box. Show the student the two choices. Use body language, gestures, signs and voice to communicate, "Sorry, no gym today, but we could listen to music or play a game. You pick." Put the choice in the empty calendar slot.

The power of the calendar system is that is used for language/concept development, not just scheduling.  The calendar system is a time when the learner and the intervenor discuss what happened yesterday, what they are going to do today, what is going to happen later in the week. This can be done with a learner who is nonverbal by using the language/signs/gestures/cues that are appropriate to the student.

4. We've been using a calendar system for over a month. My student isn't responding to the cues. Should we try something else?

When a learner has deafblindness, it takes time to build language and develop concepts. For some individuals with deafblindness, it might take months or even years to develop receptive and expressive language. The learner is more likely to understand the symbols and use them when you are persistent and consistent with use of the calendar system.

5. The calendar was set up by someone else and I don't like the cues. Can I change them?

The calendar system and the cues are the learner's way of communicating and can only be changed through careful planning. How can we expect the person to become expressive when we keep changing his words? It would be like having someone decide that this month, we are all going to speak French and next month it will be Russian. A student with deafblindness needs to have consistency with his/her communication system.

That doesn't mean we can never make changes. However, the changes need to be made with the student over time, so s/he is an integral part in creating new cues/signs/gestures.