How to help manage time, with Autism

How to help manage time, with Autism

How to …

We attended a workshop today in support of people with Autism. Aside from the fact it was geared towards young children on the Autistic spectrum and not adults, we did get into a discussion about the difficulties a person with Autism has with time. Telling the time may be one thing that is learned, but what does it mean? how do you understand 15 minutes to go, for example? That simple concept may be so difficult to make sense of.

No too long ago, our son had serious problems with time. “I’ll do it when I’m good and ready’ was a typical response to urging adherence to time. He had, and still, lacks a concept of time. This becomes a problem given the number of medical appointments – which as we know, generally run late even though you go through great trouble to be there on time, but that’s another story – and managing time, or activities around time are essential.

I researched many ways to help us and eventually came up with the Time Timer or as we called it ‘the elapsed time clock’. The idea is that the person with additional needs, Autism, Learning disabilities and other challenges to understanding time can view a decreasing marker of a remaining period up to a given length of time, without having to worry about what “in ten minutes” actually means. The red marker reduces in size in time with time and we found that our son could understand when the red marker is gone (and a little buzzer sounds) it’s time to get ready – this can be used in many different situations, but for us, we had to get ready to go out.

To say it worked is an understatement. Our son responded without argument or fuss and when he saw the red vanish, he immediately began to get ready – or at least, allowed us to get him ready – and off we went. We used this for about six months, but crucially learned not to rely on the clock alone, but to set a 15-minute routine that he associates with, then a 10-minute, 5-minute and so on, routine, which he now associates with getting ready. We retired this clock and currently have no requirement for it.

I spoke of this at the workshop and surprisingly, the group had not heard of it and were delighted for the solution we had found and shared with them.

Clearly, this is something we should not keep to ourselves but share our success widely and openly through this blog and ‘how to’ category. The link in the page takes you to the manufacturer website  “Time Timer“. I hope you find this useful and if you try it, that you find it works as well as we did.

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