Teaching The Concept Of Time

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Given what I now understood about the autistic child's need to understand all the parts before the whole could be understood, I had very definite ideas as they related to the teaching of time in the autistic child.

Obviously, teaching time with a digital clock was the easiest way to start.   Zachary could easily read digital clocks.    However, he still needed to understand "those other clocks" too!

Ideally, I would like to eventually work with a programmer on many of these issues as they related to teaching very specific concepts to the autistic.   For now, however, I could only share my knowledge via the Internet and paper copies... although I did hope to team up with a few programmers to develop software geared specifically to the autistic child.   I had worked for a fortune 100 company for quite some time and during that time, I had the opportunity to work with close to 20 programmers, developing and testing software applications.  Good programmers were expensive but well worth what they were paid in terms of working efficiently and effectively and providing quality products!

Actually, much of what I had come up with in terms of teaching language, money, time, etc. were valuable tools in teaching these concepts to any child!  Software packages geared to the autistic could be invaluable tools also.  

In terms of teaching money, there were really no clocks in existence that  met the needs of the autistic child... so I came up with my own!  :o)   I labeled everything I thought the autistic child needed to understand in terms of the concept of time... and I believed that this final product was an excellent one.    I will look into making this available as a poster for parents also.  I still have a few modifications to make to this idea in terms of colors but the general concept was there. 

Again, this tool could be used to teach the concept of time to any child.  My daughter and niece, both “normal” children, had still been struggling with some aspects of “time”, especially the “to” aspect of a clock.  Upon showing each of them this clock I had made for Zachary, within a matter of seconds, they both said:  “Oh, ok – I get it now”.  I added a few smaller clocks in order to teach “time” in smaller increments and then, put the final concept together in the “final clock”.  The subset clocks dealt specifically with hours, minutes and seconds and the concepts of “to” and “after”.

 The things to note about this particular clock were as follows:

The seconds and minutes were labeled all the way to 60... each "tick" and each "minute" was there!  The final clock would most likely make use of alternating colors for each tick – colors that would match the minute and second hands.  By alternating colors this way, I hoped to further solidify for Zachary the fact that both minutes and seconds went “all the way to 60”.

The word "o'clock" appeared just below the "12" to help Zachary understand that whenever the "minute arrow" reached the "12", that was an "o'clock".

The second, minute and hour hands (not shown here) were provided... in colors matching other aspects of the clock.   The minutes "going backwards" were provided to help with the concept of "so many minutes to" the hour.  Increments of 5 were labeled and were shown "in step" with the minutes... for example, the clock had labels for the concept of "AFTER" such as  "5 after" (associated with the 5 minute "tick") as well for the concept of "TO", such as "20 to" (associated with the "20 minutes to tick").  The clock was further defined by a "stop” and a “start”  (something I might replace simply by using colors to represent each half of the clock... the "to" and the "after" halves).  The "stop" and “start” provided a concrete example that the child needed to start or stop at a particular point or he would "cross over" into the other half (the "to" or the "after" half).  As such, this drew attention to the correct or appropriate label once that "crossover" point was reached.  Also, the shading around the clock was done in a manner that once on the “to” side, the numbers “read backwards” were more visible than the numbers continuing up to 60… thus emphasizing the “to” aspect to the clock.

 Finally, the smaller “concept clocks” and labels below them helped “build up” to the final clock concept so that teaching time could be done in “small increments”.  Labels below the small “concept clocks” included:

1 minute = 60 seconds, 1 hour = 60 minutes

    12 am hours   (am = morning)

 + 12 pm hours   (pm = afternoon + evening)

 = 24 hours = 1 day

All of these "labels", when taken together made for a much more useful clock when it came to teaching the concept of "time" to any child.

In teaching the concept of time, the final thing to add would be the concept of roman numerals.  Given that Zachary loved equations, this final concept would be simple enough to add once the overall concept of time was understood.   These labels could also be added at the bottom of the "clock poster".  Labels to provide here would include:

I = 1, II = 2, III = 3, IV = 4, V = 5, VI = 6, VII = 7, VIII = 8, IX = 9, X = 10, XI = 11, XII = 12.  

Making use of math equations to greatly help solidify this concept quickly.  For example:  X + I = XI .  Again, as with so much in the autistic child’s life… it was all in providing the proper labels and explanations!  In the future, I hope to make this available in poster format,  via the  US Autism Ambassador's organization, however, when I can do that will depend on obtaining funding to help with some of these projects.


Update:   I made a complete "Teaching Time" PowerPoint slideshow - fully narrated for children to learn... there are about 246 slides...  See the link for Teaching Tools to access that fully narrated presentation.  This is what the final clock looks like in that tool... parents of children with autism or special needs children have my permission to use this image and/or tool for free in order to help teach this concept to their children.  You should be able to just right click on your mouse and copy the image to Word in order to print it.  :o)  


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