top of page

How timers support transitions

timers for transitions kids autism

Imagine that you are in the middle of an activity that you love doing, and suddenly, for a reason you don’t understand, someone tells you that it’s over! You have no choice; that’s it; it’s over. How would you feel? Annoyed? Stressed? Angry? Like things were spiraling out of your control?

But what if you knew when the activity was going to end? This would change things because you now have the time to prepare yourself for the activity ending.

Children often have challenges related to time management, transitions, and adherence to routines. Timers have proven to be valuable tools in supporting children by providing a tangible and structured approach to time.

How do timers help?

The video below has lots of helpful tips for using timers at home:

1. Visual Representation of Time:

Timers offer a visual representation of the passage of time, which can be particularly beneficial for children who are unable to tell the time. The countdown or visual progress of a timer provides a concrete and tangible way to understand timing and when activities are likely to end. This understanding helps them to anticipate and prepare for transitions.

2. Predictability and Routine:

Predictability reduces stress and is essential for many children, and timers contribute to creating a predictable environment. By incorporating timers into routines, children gain a visual cue for when activities will begin or end. This predictability fosters a sense of security, reducing anxiety associated with the uncertainty of timeframes.

3. Transition Support:

Transitions can be challenging for children, as unexpected changes in activities or routines may lead to distress. Timers act as effective tools for signaling upcoming transitions. When children can visually see the time remaining for a particular activity, they are better prepared mentally for the shift, minimizing stress and facilitating smoother transitions.

4. Task Completion Awareness:

Children may benefit from the visual feedback provided by timers when completing tasks. Timers offer a clear endpoint for activities, helping children understand when they have successfully finished a task. This visual acknowledgment of achievement can be motivating and reinforce a sense of accomplishment.

5. Promoting Independence:

Timers empower children to manage their time independently. By having a visual representation of how much time is left for an activity or task, children can take an active role in adhering to schedules and routines. This fosters a sense of autonomy, contributing to the development of important life skills.

6. Enhanced Focus and Attention:

Timers can be used as tools to enhance focus and attention during specific activities. For instance, setting a timer for short intervals during homework or playtime can help children stay engaged and focused on the task at hand. The structured time frame provides a clear boundary and expectation.

7. Preventing Overstimulation:

Autistic children may be sensitive to sensory stimuli, and the abrupt ending of an activity can be overwhelming. Timers provide a gradual and predictable conclusion, reducing the potential for overstimulation. The visual countdown allows for a smoother transition from one activity to the next.

8. Building Time Management Skills:

Learning time management is a valuable skill for children. Timers serve as practical tools for introducing and reinforcing these skills. As children become accustomed to managing their time using timers, they develop a better understanding of the temporal aspect of various activities.

What type of timer should I use?

There are many different types of timers available. Your choice should be based on what your child's current understanding of time is and which one you think would best support your child.

The video below shows how to use the different timers:

1. Visual Timers:

Visual timers use visual cues such as colors, lights, or moving graphics to represent the passage of time. These timers are helpful for children who may struggle with the concept of time.

2. Countdown Timers:

Countdown timers display the remaining time in a clear and simple format, helping children understand how much time is left for a particular activity.

3. Task Timers:

Task timers are designed to help children break their activities into manageable chunks of time. They often come with presets for common tasks like homework or reading.

4. Digital Timers:

Digital timers provide a numerical display of the elapsed or remaining time. They are versatile and can be used for various activities.

5. Sand Timers:

Sand timers use sand to visually represent the passing of time. These timers can be particularly engaging for younger children.

6. Time Management Apps for Kids:

Several apps are available that turn smartphones or tablets into customizable timers for different tasks and activities.


bottom of page