Your family's overall activities teach tradition. If your children are on sports teams and you have season tickets for sports events, sports are obviously part of your family's traditions. If your family camps every weekend or rides bikes after dinner each evening, you obviously love the outdoors. You do what you love. You get the picture. Most kids with special needs “get the picture” better if they know what is happening next.
Children on the autism spectrum are easily overwhelmed with new situations. Those with ADHD are thrown off by unexpected events and activities. Having a calendar to show the plan is a great way to build communication and increase family fun.
Create a Basic Calendar
A family-friendly calendar should be fairly large. It will need to have enough room for some wording, times, small pictures, and stickers. Poster board, sheets of large sturdy paper, or a desk/blotter type calendar work well.
If you are making a calendar from scratch, clearly print the name of each month as well as the numbers for the days. Another way to embellish the calendar is to let your child cut out the month names and pictures from an old calendar. Ready-made calendars that have pictures showing something significant about the month work well. For example, July might have a picture of fireworks.
Things to Include on the Calendar
Use your own calendar to get you started for ideas. Basically, anything that is not part of your regular everyday routine is a good fit for the calendar.
The key is to keep it short and to the point. If Grandma will babysit on Tuesday and Thursday evenings while you are at class, put a small picture of Grandma on those days with a time. If physical therapy will be three days this week, print PT and the time. If physical therapy is normally Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but Wednesday's session is cancelled this week, write it on all three of the days and then cross out the Wednesday listing.
Marking the Calendar
Include your child in creating and marking the calendar. This should be done with supervision. You don't want drawings, scribbles, or seventy-five stickers covering the month of November!
Depending on the age and fine motor skills of your child, he may help mark the calendar by:
Labeling the months, days, and numbers
Cutting out and gluing names of the months and seasonal pictures from magazines and old calendars
Using stickers to mark special days (bus stickers for school days, candle stickers for birthdays)
Crossing off the days before an event, such as a birthday
The everyday tradition of using a family calendar will boost your child's communication skills and will reduce his frustration by helping him to understand what is happening.