Pick of the Week: Time Tracker Mini

We love this small, easy to program Time Tracker Mini! It’s a simple visual and auditory timer that has 360 degree viewing so it’s great for anywhere, in the classroom or at home. There are two simple dials: one for a total alarm time and one for the amount of warning time you’d like given before time is up. The timer turns green, yellow, then red as it counts down. The total alarm time can be set anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours in 5-minute increments.

Save 15% on the Time Tracker Mini this week only by entering the Promo Code BLOGTTM2 at checkout.

*Offer expires on December 6, 2011 at 11:59 pm EST. Not compatible with any other offer. Be sure there are no spaces after the Promo Code when you enter it at checkout.

Resources for Adolescents & Adults with Autism

With so much of the focus on the exploding rates of Autism in the U.S., the majority of attention has been focused on diagnosis, early intervention and services for school-age children. Not as much attention has been focused on what is available for these individuals after the age of 21 and unfortunately, service options rapidly diminish after this age. ASAT (Association for Science in Autism Treatment) has posted a good article on where to look for resources for older students and adults who need support. To read the article in full, click here.

This will prove to be an even greater issue over the next 10 years as so many individuals on the spectrum transition to adulthood. For those parents and caregivers who have children over the age of 21, is there any advice you can offer or resources you can direct others to that you have found particularly helpful?

Pick of the Week: Time Timer

You’re probably all familiar with the excellent Time Timer. These visual timers have been a staple at home and in classrooms for students with special needs for years now. This week, save 15% on all three sizes of the Timer Timer: 3-inch, 8-inch and 12-inch. The Time Timer is ideal for transitions, scheduling, getting ready and so much more.

Save 15% on the Time Timer today through April 5 by entering the promo code BLOGTTR at checkout.

*Offer expires on April 5, 2011 at 11:59 pm EST. Not compatible with any other offer.

Tips for Making a Move More Successful

I’ve recently moved from one apartment to another one only two blocks away.  The funny thing is that it has left me completely discombobulated.  I leave the house improperly dressed for the weather because I have no idea where the hats, scarves and gloves are.  I’ve fallen behind in several tasks and generally just feel a bit ‘out of it’.

This started me thinking about what families with a child on the spectrum most likely experience when moving.  Many children with autism are disrupted by change and any variations in the daily routine can dramatically impact their level of functioning.  It would be important when moving, like most predictable events, to prepare your child ahead of time.   I only have one first hand experience working with a family who moved.  It went pretty smoothly because they were relocating in the same city and had family close by where therapy could take place while the new apartment was being set up. Additionally, this particular child is pretty easy going and isn’t as bothered by change as many of my other students.  However, I have a feeling that this is the exception to the rule rather than the norm.

Clearly, all children are different and this should be taken into consideration when preparing them for the move but in general there are some things to consider for all children.  I would suggest the following ways to try and lessen the stress and help facilitate a smoother transition.

Prepare your child for the move. – This one goes without saying but I’m going to say it anyway.  Just because you think your child might not conceptually understand a discussion about moving doesn’t mean you can’t begin to prepare them for the change.  There are many great children’s books about moving and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to start reading these together several weeks before you move.  You can create social stories about what changes can be expected and even talk about some of the “what if’s” that can be encountered when moving.  If you are moving within the same city or town you can become familiar with the new neighborhood before hand by going to the new playgrounds or any other place you might frequent.  If you are not able to visit the new places you can put pictures of them in a photo book to review and discuss.  You can also count down the days until the move on a calendar so that the arrival of the actual day is predictable.


Keep the schedule the same as much as possible. –  This is always a safe starting place when unsure about how your child might react to change.  Whether a holiday or moving to a new apartment if you’re able to keep the schedule the same it will make everyone’s life a little easier.  It might also be helpful to reintroduce a visual schedule for a few weeks surrounding the move if you don’t have one in place already.


Keep favorite and comforting items accessible. – If there is a particular toy or item that plays a critical role in your child’s ability to self soothe when upset you will want to make sure you know where it is during the move.  The location will be changing but you want to make sure that it still feels like home by having familiar items available.  It is also a good idea to have the child’s room set up in a similar way in the new house so there isn’t too much of an adjustment in their personal space.  This isn’t a good time to update furniture or purge old toys as you will want to keep things as similar as possible.

Use Positive Reinforcement. – Moving is one giant transition but you can be sure that within that there will be a lot of little transitions and adjustments too.  It’s important to not lose sight of any success your child experiences with these smaller transitions up until and even after the move.  When your child transitions smoothly REINFORCE it!  Reserve a favorite toy or snack as reinforcement for transitions so that it remains powerful and meaningful to the child.  Even if these are transitions that no longer require reinforcement you can use it as an opportunity to emphasize their ability to transition and remind them up the upcoming move.

What is your personal experience with moving?  Were there things that were crucial to your child transitioning smoothly?  Are there things you tried that you would do differently if you had to move again?  What tips would you share with other families who are preparing to move? We would love to hear your story!

President’s Day

President’s day is on Monday and it is likely that there may be some gaps in your child’s home program or perhaps they are home without therapy because school is closed.  Either way we all know that structure and the maintenance of routine play a big role in a child’s success.  Your best bet is to not leave anything to chance.  Create a picture schedule of the planned activities for the day substituting any gaps with activities that your child has had success with independently or activities you can facilitate.  Depending on your child’s abilities and his or her individual interests this schedule may include some new activities mapped out by using pictures of each step involved.  I’ve really enjoyed simple cooking activities with my students lately.  The simple act of making lemonade together provides so many opportunities to expand language, turn-taking, following directions and sequencing.  The best part is that when you are done you have delicious lemonade to drink.  Whenever I include kitchen activities I like to draw up a pictorial recipe before hand that the child can follow along with.  It is also important to keep in mind that not everything has to be explicitly therapeutic or educational.  You can have structure without it necessarily including direct instruction.  In fact I think that holidays are the best time to mix in some more varied activities.  Try printing out images of your child’s favorite storybook character and paste them into a journal while writing your own story to go along with the pictures.  Parents and caregivers sometimes shy away from incorporating novel activities into a schedule but with some preparation and guidance it can be an enjoyable “day off” for all.

What does at day off look like in your household?  Maybe you can share a fun activity you’ve recently tried?

Back to School Basics

You know it is officially back to school season when the grill in my backyard has been cool to the touch for days and I’ve had my yearly medical exam (PPD titer and all!). I hope it has been smooth sailing for you and your little ones as classes begin. If it hasn’t been, this is what I always try to keep in mind, for all people, big and small:


It is best to join forces with your child and prepare for the year by making sure you cover what I like to call the 3 S’s.


Make sure everything in your child’s work/play space at home is organized and equipped. Play continues to be an important part of learning even when school is in session so take this time to go through toys and arts and crafts supplies and weed out things that are broken or no longer developmentally appropriate for your child. Make sure there is a spacious and uncluttered work space stocked with all of the supplies your child will need to complete homework and school projects. It is also a good idea to keep a space near the work area for a visual schedule to help foster independence during homework time. Lastly, designate a spot near the entrance of your home where your child’s backpack, important papers and your keys can go each afternoon. The last thing you want is to add undue stress to your morning routine and risk missing the beginning of class.


We all know that with this population transitions can be especially difficult.  First, take care of as much as you can the night before. Pack bags, sign paperwork, pack lunches, and pick out clothing.  Also, don’t think that a a parent you are the only one responsible for this prep work. Incorporate as many of these things into your child’s evening routine as you can. Having your child participate will foster independence and build confidence. Again, visual schedules and token economies help facilitate independence and provide motivation respectively.  Structure benefits children so it is good to develop a general school year routine and stick to it as much as possible.  Predictability is helpful when it comes to transitions but also remember to build in components that have some element of change to them so that you can facilitate flexibility.  One part of the schedule that shouldn’t change is the sleep schedule.  Keep it as consistent as possible, even on the weekends.  I suggest building a calming activity into the schedule before bedtime and using a timer to help with the transition to bed.


Sometimes, people find it surprising when I suggest preparation for social interactions but there are a lot of creative ways to help children familiarize themselves with conversational topics, common games and salient information about their peers and teachers.  I encourage all of the families I work with to print photographs of family outings or events that can be used as visual prompts for conversational topics.  Especially good are things that happened over the weekend.  If the picture book is reviewed Sunday evening they will be fully prepared to talk about what they did over the weekend. Additionally, you can find out what schoolyard games are popular with your child’s peer group and practice them at home with siblings or playdates.  If it is an athletic game you might also spend time with your child making a book about the rules that can be reviewed periodically. Lastly, I like to construct a “friend journal” with a child at the beginning of each school year.  You might need to enlist teachers or other parents to help with this but it is such a useful tool that it is worth the extra effort.  Start by obtaining photos of each classmate and pasting them individually into different sections of the journal.  On a daily basis you can help your child fill in something they have learned about their peers.  This could range anywhere from favorite cartoon or tv show to their age or their family members names.

Going back to school can be a fun and exciting time.  With a little preparation and creativity maybe it will be the best school year yet!

Weekly Autism Tip from Rethink Autism

Our friends over at Rethink Autism offer a great, FREE weekly autism tip. Check out this week’s tip which focuses on going back to school.

Rethink Autism makes research-based autism treatment tools accessible and affordable for parents and professionals around the world. They have an innovative web-based platform that includes a comprehensive curriculum with over 1,200 video-based exercises, staff/parent training modules, and ongoing assessment tools – all developed by leaders in the field of autism education and research. They also offer virtual support services, ranging from short-term problem behavior assessment to ongoing case consultation with our team of experts.

The TimeBuddy Clock is here!

We’ve been waiting since February for the TimeBuddy to arrive and it’s finally here!
This wonderful and customizable clock is designed to help young children with daily routines and time management. TimeBuddy is a battery-operated 24-hour activity clock with alarm settings. The alarm can be set for up to three different activities. The clock dial points to visual icons which consist of reusable stickers that are placed at actual times throughout the day by the parent, giving children cues on when to start and stop certain activities. You can also set the clock to literally speak three different phrases in your choice of three languages (English, Spanish, and French). There’s even an option for a user-recorded message of up to 15 seconds to allow parents to record a personalized message and you can insert the child’s name into the pre-programmed messages.

“It’s not me, it’s the Timer.”

The timer is one of everyone’s favorite tools for structuring time and activities for children with autism. It can be incorporated into all parts of daily living.

It was once explained to me that a parent could blame the timer for everything that has to do with transitions.

“It’s not me, it’s the Timer.”

“I know you want to stay in the playground but the timer said it’s time to go home.” Or perhaps, “The timer thinks you might have to go to the potty again.” My favorite at Christmas is, “The timer will tell you when you can open another present.” At our house, the timer was the higher authority. The timer is a fair arbitrator. It didn’t respond to whining or behaviors and it very coolly and serenely had to be obeyed.

It works! You just have to remember to put it in place and use it before you enter the big struggle of wills.

It’s just a simple kitchen timer….BUT we needed one that could count down and count up, it had to have a magnet so it could be easily found on the refrigerator and a clip/stand so one of us could wear it or place it close to us at the table if we were working.

Along the way, we found the Time Timer, invented by a mom of mainstream kids who needed a visual for transitions to stop her kids from asking, “Are we there yet?” The Time Timer is a visual depiction of time elapsing. Kids on the spectrum have a tangible way to see time passing as the red dial disappears.

There are all kinds of timers, and implementing them into any aspect of the day can significantly help in cutting back problem behaviors and anxiety over what is happening next.
– Julie Azuma