Teaching Calendar Skills to Special-Needs Kids
How to Get Started with Calendar Skills
When I was ready to teach calendar skills to my children with special needs, I read up on the topic. We tried a few different methods, and this is what worked for us. Calendar skills are necessary for daily living, and special-needs kids can learn to use a calendar too! I hope this helps someone else in the future.
Teaching the Concept of One Day
Begin by teaching the child a concept of a day. The child will get an idea of how long it takes a day to pass with repetition of an activity. Here are some ideas to get started:
- Get a calendar with one sheet per day. Make it the child's job to tear off a page each morning.
- Use a monthly calendar and have the child be responsible for crossing off the day as it passes.
- Talk about how the sun comes up in the morning and goes down at night. Show the child a visual representation of day and night if they have trouble with the concept.
Teaching the Concept of a Week
Once the child has had plenty of practice understanding one day, introduce the concept of one week.
- Explain to them that a week has 7 days. Show this to them on a calendar. Sing songs about 7 days in a week. Below is a Youtube song that can be used to practice days of the week. The lyrics are: "Sunday, Monday, / Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, / Friday, Saturday / Clap, Clap / Seven days in a Week."
- Introduce the days of the week to them as sight words. Point out that there are 7 of them and practice reading the day of the week each day: Monday, Tuesday, etc.
- In addition to singing the days of the week in order, you can practice saying them. Songs do not work that well for my children with special needs because music usually goes to fast for them to keep up with. An alternative is simply to repeat the days of the week slowly in order. Do this frequently.
- These days of the week free printable cards are perfect for sight word practice. They have symbols on them to help the child arrange them in order, before they are able to do it by the word alone. Sing the days of the week song, have them practice putting the days in the week in order and read each day from the days of the week sight word cards until the child has the days of the week memorized.
- Often, it was easiest for us to simply read across the kitchen calendar days of the week in order. The calendar was always readily available, on the refrigerator, and it provided plenty of repetition to read them daily. After doing this for a while, we practiced putting them in order. If the child became stuck, we would run to the kitchen calendar and look to see what day came next.
- Visual prompts often help children with special needs to commit new concepts to memory. In the photo above, we used pictures on the days of the week to help read the days of the week as we placed them in order. For example, a picture of the sun on "Sunday," wind on "Wednesday," and 2 on "Tuesday," helped them read the words correctly.
Months of the Year
At the beginning of each month, use the opportunity to prepare the calendar. This is a wonderful chance to talk to kids about the special events that occur in a month. For example, October is about falling leaves, pumpkins, windy days and harvest. Let the child color the calendar. Help the child choose colors that represent the month. Stickers and photos cut from a magazine can also be placed on the calendar. Discuss any special events that occur in the month, such as Halloween in October.
This is the calendar that we used. It comes with a scene to be colored for each month. The word January, for example, is colored along with a border of snowmen and snowflakes. It also has a page to be filled in with drawings, so kids can make their own artwork about the month of January, or cut pictures from magazines. Set aside a day to do calendar and talk about the weather and the season for that month.
It's a paper calendar, so we crossed off the day as it passed with a big X. It also has stickers to plan for special occasions in the month, such as holidays and doctor appointments. To compliment this calendar, we used the CD songs below to memorize the days of the week and months in order.
This flip chart and CD lists all the days of the week and months of the year in order. The tunes help children memorize them. This isn't so much a calendar as it is songs with visual prompts to help children memorize days of the week, months, season, etc. I highly recommend using this at the same time that you are following the other steps above.
Seasons of the Year
- Talk to your child often about the seasons. When looking at family photos, point out snow in the background and mention that it is cold and winter. Beach photos would be a good time to talk about summer. Tell your child the four seasons, spring, summer, winter, and autumn.
- Do worksheets that practice matching the appropriate clothes with the appropriate season.
- Explain to your child which months occur in which seasons as you practice calendar skills. It may also help to have a separate wall hanging that lists each month and categorizes them into seasons with pictures identifying the season. This helps children understand how several months fit into ONE season and it reinforces graphics that they use to recall the seasons, such as snowflakes for winter.
- At the beginning of each season, discuss the weather changes and how that changes the clothes you need. Pack away clothes that are not in season and organize the closet. This helps children establish to be more aware of the changing seasons and recognize the length of each. While outside, observe the current weather and talk about the seasons to reinforce the concept of summer being hot, winter being cold, etc.
- Talk about special events and holidays, such as Christmas and tell your child it occurs in the winter. Point out that the Fourth of July occurs in the summer, etc.
In early elementary school, teachers talk about months, days of the week, yesterday and tomorrow. If you homeschool your child, or if you simply need to cover these topics again, this calendar is perfect for helping children learn calendar skills.
Questions & Answers
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