We Live & Die by the Clock

Time is such an abstract concept. You can’t really see it. You definitely can’t feel or hear it. But, we all surely talk about it. For many kids, especially those on the autism spectrum, it is difficult to understand time segments. It is so hard for them to wait for anything. It is frustrating to always hear numbers but not know what they really mean or what to do. And yet, it is pretty impossible to go through a day without referencing time in one way or another. Do you want to help these kids? Do you want to try to make it easier for them?

Bring out the visual timer!

This simple little device can be a lifesaver, not to mention a great asset to lots of children.  It is exactly what it sounds like. It is a clock-like timer that you can set for a specific period of time and that time is shown in red. As the time slowly passes, the red slowly disappears until, finally, it reaches the zero mark and a short bell rings signifying the end has come!

This simple visual aid successfully transforms time from an abstract term into a concrete thing. The visual timer can be used almost anywhere by almost anyone for almost any reason. It can be very beneficial:

It is useful for transitioning from one activity to another. Imagine explaining to your child that he can play on the computer for 15 minutes and then has to start his homework. You simply set the timer to 15 and watch the red disappear. When the timer ends, the bell rings, and your child eventually will understand it to mean that it is the end of one activity and the start of another.

It is useful for setting goals. So often, we try to teach our children to sit and wait for two minutes. It seems like an eternity to a child who is asked to just sit (often in silence). But, if you set the timer to the two minute mark and have a visual that your child can watch and see disappearing, it may be a lot easier for her to reach that goal.

It is useful for teaching and explaining how time passes. It is very common for kids to complain that they just started to have fun or that they didn’t have enough time to play. A visual timer will help to show them that time is actually going by while they are busy enjoying themselves. The red portion of the timer clearly decreases as the time passes.

It is helpful in controlling behavior. Using the visual timer over and over again leads to predictability as your child gradually understands and accepts the process. There hopefully will be less meltdowns and tantrums because your child will grow to understand and expect something to change when the red color on the timer is gone.

It is helpful in gaining independence. Your child can acquire a feeling of control over his own actions by being able to set the visual timer without any assistance. Perhaps he will even begin to negotiate the amount of time to be set.

I truly believe that visual timers are worth a try. You can purchase them right off of the Internet in a variety of sizes.

Wishing you lots of success!


written by Kimmy Katari, mom of 4 amazing boys