Special Needs Lifesaver: The Time Timer

clockYesterday I wrote a post at my personal blog about our nothing-short-of-stunning breakthrough in Noah's eating habits. I'm not sure I'm ever going to fully calm down about how instant and miraculous the change has been. A diet of dry tasteless carbs transformed OVERNIGHT to include ... meats! Vegetables! A rainbow of textures and flavors and real honest-to-God nutritional benefits!

All because we turned on a freaking timer.


The timer idea came from Noah's (private) occupational therapist -- and is yet another shining example of why we continue paying for private therapy outside of the school district. The school district's program, while fabulous and praise-worthy, does not care very much about the non-educational challenges we are working through. Eating being a big one. As long as Noah can chew and swallow and is not at risk for choking in the classroom, they aren't obligated to help us with his more subtle oral-motor and texture/sensory issues.

His private OT, however, has ALWAYS been there to help with the stuff that falls outside of the IEP. The school might not care about a 4.5-year-old who can't use a fork or spoon, but she did, and she cared a lot about his limited diet and whether it was tied to an underlying sensory problem.

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Not that eating was the reason she introduced the Time Timer and encouraged us to get one at home. The Time Timer is a product specifically designed for special-needs kids who have trouble grasping the concept of time, which then exacerbates their problems with transitions. (Transitions probably remain our Number One Challenge-y Thing, if you know what I mean.) Informational site is here, though it's readily available to buy at Amazon. It's a clock, but it represents an hour visually, labeled with minutes instead of the one to 12 hours. You set a block of time -- 5 minutes, 15, 45, etc. -- by extending a red inner circle thing, which slowly disappears as time counts down. It runs on a single battery and can stand up on a flat surface or get hung on the wall. Basic, yet utterly brilliant.

(Most models also include an optional chime or ding, though Noah's OT reports that a lot of kids with similar auditory quirks like Noah will then fixate on when the sound will come and get upset about it. I can absolutely picture him doing exactly that, so we don't use it.)

I figured we could use the Time Timer for lots of preferred-to-non-preferred transitional things: You have such-and-such amount of time to play with your Leapster or your trains, before we have to go to bed or go to the store. I didn't realize how helpful it would be to keep an easily distracted kid FOCUSED on non-preferred tasks too: You have this much time to clean your room, so stay focused, please. And mealtimes! MY CHILD EATS FOOD WHEN GIVEN A FREAKING TIME LIMIT. WHO KNEW.

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Anyway, I was not paid for this review/endorsement, nor do I have any affiliation whatsoever with the Time Timer people. We paid for our own clock unit and are just genuinely thrilled with the myriad of uses and its effectiveness at lowering Noah's stress level and resistance to transitions. Thus, TIme Timer: two thumbs up, fine holiday fun.


Image via © iStock.com/Pali Rao

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