Teaching Children with ASD Time Management Skills
Does your child with ASD struggle with time management and keeping track of time? Many studies suggest that individuals with ASD may have altered perception of time compared to their neurotypical counterparts (e.g. Allman, DeLeon, & Wearden, 2011; Szelag, Kowalska, Galkowski, & Pöppel, 2005; Vogel et al., 2019). Considering how atypical sensory and perception are common characteristics of ASD, it would be unsurprising if time perception may indeed be weaker in individuals with ASD. Furthermore, due to impairments in working memory and attention that many individuals with ASD experience, it may become even more difficult for them to consistently recreate time intervals and process time (Jurek et al., 2019). Since time management is a crucial skill needed for everyday life – whether in school, at play, or even just ensuring there is sufficient time for meals, it is paramount for children with ASD to hone this skill for their future.
Time management mostly consists of the following complementary six skills: time telling, scheduling, budgeting time, efficient use of time, prioritising, and awareness of the passage of time (Dipipi-Hoy & Steere, 2016). Here, we offer some suggestions on ways to kickstart children with ASD to acquire these skills.
1. Sand Timers
Sand timers come in various sizes and time durations. These are particularly useful for quick tasks such as brushing teeth, doing questions as part of homework, and even for break times in the midst of studying or completing homework. As these sand timers provide a visual of time passing, they not only help children with ASD understand the passage of time, but also allow them to understand the importance of spending each second wisely by being focused on the task at hand. These are especially applicable for early learners who are unable to tell time yet, and allows them to challenge themselves to complete each task before all the sand has fallen.
2. Visual Schedules
A visual schedule is akin to a checklist of activities or tasks to be completed in the day, with the time stated for each. The main difference from a typical timetable is that activities are usually stuck on using Velcro in timeslots and can be removed when completed. Each activity is also represented in a pictorial or animated form to show and remind children what each activity would involve. This allows children to familiarise with the sequence of events for the day, to increase predictability and hence aid transition from one to the next. At the same time, this also allows them to be more aware of how long specific events would take – for example, that having a meal would take 20 to 30 minutes.
3. Relate Known Activities to Units of Time
Teaching children about units of time using activities as references could help develop their ability to gauge durations thus have a clearer idea of time measurement. For example, telling them that each episode of their favourite television program is 30 minutes long; or that each nursery rhyme is about 2 minutes long. This could facilitate in their ability to allocate time for different tasks more efficiently by increasing their awareness of time periods.
Summing up, while children with ASD might face unique challenges in efficient time management – contributed by difficulties in changing routines, connecting time and daily events, or understanding the concept of a time limit, there are little steps that we can take as caregivers to help them be more familiar with the concept of time and having effective and efficient usage of time.
Allman, M. J., DeLeon, I. G., & Wearden, J. H. (2011). Psychophysical assessment of timing in individuals with autism. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 116(2), 165–178.
Dipipi-Hoy, C. & Steere, D., (2016). Time Well Spent Teaching Your Child How to Manage Time. Retrieved from http://virtualpublications.soloprinting.com/publication/?m=28506&i=328613&view=articleBrowser&article_id=2556964&ver=html5
Jurek, L., Longuet, Y., Baltazar, M., Amestoy, A., Schmitt, V., Desmurget, M., & Geoffray, M. M. (2019). How did I get so late so soon? A review of time processing and management in autism. Behavioural Brain Research, 374, 112-121.
Szelag, E., Kowalska, J., Galkowski, T., & Pöppel, E. (2004). Temporal processing deficits in high‐functioning children with autism. British Journal of psychology, 95(3), 269-282.
Vogel, D., Falter-Wagner, C. M., Schoofs, T., Krämer, K., Kupke, C., & Vogeley, K. (2019). Interrupted Time Experience in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Empirical Evidence from Content Analysis. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 49(1), 22–33.
Autism Awareness Centre Inc. (2020) [Child holding clock] [Photograph] Retrieved from https://autismawarenesscentre.com/teaching-the-concept-of-time/