For individuals who are deafblind, calendar systems provide a concrete means of what is going to happen in the person’s day. Calendars come in many forms. The selection of a specific type of calendar is based on the needs and abilities of each individual. They may be as simple as a single basket containing an object that represents “What I am going to do now.” They may have a series of compartments that contain objects, parts of objects, photographs, line drawings or tactile symbols representing the activities of the day. Some calendars include a symbol for choice-making that allows the person to select a favourite activity. Others may look very much like regular calendars consisting of months, days and dates with information in large print or Braille.
Concrete, tactile, pictorial or physical cues are all part of the Total Communication Approach (TCA). Cues are used in conjunction with speech, sign and gestures and can be used with calendar systems to represent activities or a person.
Concrete Cues are representative objects of an activity or person which the individual who is deafblind is involved with. For example, a cup represents a drink or snack time, a book represents the Library, a ball represents exercise, an instrument represents music, a silk scarf represents their mother, etc.
Tactile Cues are used with individuals with very limited to no vision. These cues are often representative of the texture of a specific place or person. Olfactory (Scent) Cues can also represent a certain activity or person, and is especially great to use with someone with limited to no vision. Examples could include: scent of lavender represents massage, and lavender scented oil is used during the massage, a coffee cup with coffee grounds lining the inside represents coffee or going out for coffee.
Pictorial Cues can be magazine pictures, photographs, picture communication symbols, or drawings. These are used with individuals with some residual vision.
A storybook, tactile memory, experience tool, memory book, scrapbook and journal are all different ways to describe the same idea – a trace of some of the very important experiences and activities individuals with deafblindness may participate in. Since individuals with deafblindness have a unique learning style, Experience Tools are an excellent resource that can be tailored to the unique needs of these individuals. They can be created in a variety of ways including: tactile for individuals with little to no vision, colourful for individuals with sight or using auditory components for an individual with deafblindness that has some functional hearing. Scents also have a powerful impact for individuals with deafblindness and can easily trigger memories.
What is an Experience Tool?
A collection of items and steps directly related to an experience the person has had and/or will participate in. They are used to reflect on, initiate conversation, enhance the learning of concepts such as time, promote expressive and receptive language, anticipate events (such as routines), be engaged, make choices and be informed. They also provide hands on experience to the meaning of language which allows the individual to learn in a concrete manner.