Timers have many different purposes in many different settings. In the depiction below, a timer is being used in the home to help a child, youth, or adult manage the time they spend on the computer.

In the case of proper time management it is important to understand that a child, youth or adult living with a cognitive disability may not understand or feel time pass the same way their peers might. Some individuals can understand that when they are given a five minute warning, their time is coming to an end. To a child with a cognitive disability this five minute warning could very well mean they have only used up half the time they have to play and another half awaits! By using a timer children are able to see in a tangible sense how much time has gone and how much is left. Tip: be flexible with how the individual chooses to use their time, the lesson is time management not proper use of time!

Transitioning can be one of the most common triggers for children living with a cognitive disability. Imagine our street lights had no yellow, only green and red, we would have no warning about when to stop and so many of us would be driving through red lights by mistake. This same rule applies for children of any cognitive ability, without a yellow warning light they will only be able to make the proper transition half of the time. As a result of defects in memory, issues problem solving and impulse control, children, youth and adults with cognitive disabilities will require more yellow lights or warning signs. Timers allow for several warnings, especially for younger children who still have no concept of time, colored timers can be used to visually indicate when time is running out. Tip: Using a visually vibrant timer will not allow the child to ignore its warning signs, try to find a timer that clicks, hums, beeps or is visually loud.

Finally, it is  maybe the most important factor that the child, youth and especially the adult feel they have some control over how much time they have and how they are going to manage it.  When at all possible, the individual should plan their own time and set their own timer. It can become very easy for parents and professionals to guide individuals to make good decisions but the goal is to teach self management. Years of continued trail and error and creativity can help reach this goal.  Tip: Try allowing a teen to use a watch with a timer. Use the timer as a tool to get them home on time: ask the youth to set the timer for 11pm, when the timer goes off the youth is reminded to go to bus stop and catch the bus so that they can be home for midnight.

Timers are great for many situations:

Do it yourself:
Try using these less expensive options in your home:


Timers have many different purposes in many different settings. In the depiction below, a timer is being used in the classroom to help distinguish between periods, lessons, free time and  individual work time.

Teachers are required to teach a multitude of subjects each day, giving students a well rounded knowledge of skills needed to function later in life. Students  with FASD can often struggle through the transitions needed to change subjects or integrate different learning styles. Using timers is a strategy that allows a teacher the ease of transitioning subjects without behavioral outbursts and interruptions. For students, timers allow a warning and time frame in which transitions must take place, decreasing anxiety and stress and hopefully behavioral outbursts and frustration.

Timers can be purchased in all different shapes and sizes allowing teachers to customize timers for each specific purpose. Some timers as shown in the pictures depict a certain amount of time in the red that is available for the student to use until they have to move on to the next subject. Slowly the red section will move to show that less time is available. By providing a tangible explanation of how much time is left a student is able to lessen their own anxiety about when to pack up, move on or get ready for lunch.


Timers are great for any instance:

Do it yourself