Time & Time Management

Understanding time is hard for people with FASD. Time is an abstract idea. There is the telling of time, like reading a watch or a clock on the wall, and the passage of time, such as playing for 30 minutes while waiting for supper. There is also being on time, being early or late!

Time involves numbers, which are also intangible concepts. People with FASD learn best when they can touch and see things – time cannot be touched or seen.

Replace the Missing Internal Clock

A child with FASD has no internal clock. Passing time, ten minutes or one hour, both feel the same to him. He looks at the clock on the microwave and it says 8:00. He does not know if it means 8:00 in the morning or 8:00 in the evening. He needs help keeping his day organized.

A digital clock is much easier for a child to understand than a clock with hands. Be very consistent with how you express the time to your child. People without the brain damage affecting people with FASD understand that 12:45, “fifteen minutes to one” and “quarter to one” all means the same time. But a child with FASD may think you are giving him three different times.

Some Tips to Help a Child or Teen with FASD to Understand Time

  1. Establish routines that will help to develop habits. The habits will serve in place of the inner clock.
  2. Use an egg timer for activities like showering and  brushing teeth. Teach your child how to set the timer.
  3. Use an egg timer or the timer on the oven to remind the child when it is time to pick up toys or go to bed.
  4. Write down what time the child is to leave for school. Tape this paper under the digital clock on the microwave. Tell your child, “When the numbers match, it’s time to leave for school.”
  5. Compare the passing of time to something the child might understand. For example, “We will be at Grandma’s house in the time it takes to watch ‘Phineas and Ferb.’”
  6. Use the radio or TV to help the child understand when it’s time to do something. For example, say, “It’s time to go when (his favorite program)’ is over.” Or, “We will clean up while we listen to one more song.”
  7. Link the time of day to an activity such as brushing teeth before bed or washing the dishes after breakfast. This will help the child develop good lifelong habits.
  8. FASD causes faulty memory. Teach your child to write down appointments and events in an agenda or day timer and to refer to it often during the day.
  9. Be your child’s ‘external brain’. They need your help to understand what they need to do and when they need to do it.