Using Timers for Motivation and Self Regulation

I am someone who LOVES  (and needs) to use a timer. I tend to get distracted easily (wonder where Andrew gets it from!) but there is something about a timer that helps me to focus. It is great because when the timer is on, I think, “Ok, I can do ___ for x amount of time.” It seems like the same is true with Andrew. If there is something that he is not really into or is avoiding while doing My Obstacle Course, I will bring out a timer and say, “Ok, let’s see how much we can do before the timer runs out.” This really helps because he knows there is an end and that as long as he is working or trying, the timer keeps counting down time (I also make a mental note to revisit why he wasn’t into it or why he was avoiding.).

Digital timer for counting down a specific time.

I have a digital kitchen timer that I got at our grocery store that clips on my pants so I can set it and forget about it until it goes off.

Hourglass timers

I have some hourglass timers that I found at the teacher store – one is for 3 min. and the other is for 1 min. These work well when doing an activity that I know he can do but is “stimming” on something (or giggling uncontrollably which frequently happens 🙂 ). If it is an activity that is very challenging for him, then I will say, “Just try your best and let’s see how many we can do before the sand goes down!”

"Clock" application on my iphone - My new favorite!!

and my most recent favorite is the “Clock” app on my iPhone. It has a timer…


as well as a stopwatch…


which challenges him to see how fast he can do something as well as setting a limit on an activity (works with activities that are preferred or non-preferred!).

Useful beyond My Obstacle Course:

I have found that timers are also really helpful for limiting time on things like electronics or showers, both of which he could do all day long some days! It works because he knows up front that I am setting the timer and when it goes off, he needs to shut it off or he doesn’t get it the next time. The first few times he would put up a fuss but once he knew that I was going to be consistent, he got it. This is another way to remove the, “Mom says!” aspect because it is the timer that is telling him his time is up, not me.

I have also just started using the stopwatch for him to earn time for his preferred activities. Whatever amount of time he spends playing with his toys or reading books is the amount of time he can earn to watch video clips of ceiling fans, play his DS or computer games. You could vary it depending on what works for you in your house but it has been working really well, particularly on weekends where he is home with a greater amount of unstructured time.

Engage, Encourage and Empower!

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