It’s really hard to sit still and focus on a task when you don’t know when you’re going to be finished or what’s coming next!
In the article “Everything Is Unexpected,” the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) highlights research studying the theory that children with Autism suffer from “predictive impairment” where they have difficulty inferring what will happen next, which can lead to extreme anxiety.
While children with Autism may experience a more intense version of this feeling, most of us can probably remember a time when we couldn’t concentrate on a lecture, a conversation, a task at work, or a school assignment because we were worrying about what was going to happen next in our day.
Using a timer can take a lot of anxiety out of tasks for kids. They can also make parents less of a ‘bad guy,’ if they result in less nagging! Liz at Say What? wrote a great post with a lot of information on different kinds of timers, how she uses them in language therapy and how they can be used at home for tasks like homework.
One of my favorite things about timers is they can make almost any activity into a game. When I think of timers, I think of a child I worked with who loved the timer on my phone. Every time he saw me he requested the ‘countdown to zero” game (hence the name of this post :)!
This child HATED sitting in his high chair, had some serious health complications and an extremely limited food repertoire. We needed to teach him to sit with good positioning to eat! The “countdown to zero” game was the only thing that could get him in the chair without a fight and highlighted for me the huge participation shift that happens when we make anything into game. Even if kids didn’t want to do the same activity before, everyone wants to play when it’s a game!
So try it. If you want to try one of the activities on this site or if there’s a particularly hard transition in your house, something you can’t get your kids to do or can’t drag them away from, try setting a timer and making it into game. I bet you can get them to want to play!
Enjoy! Happy food-play!