English poet Thomas Hardy wrote, "Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change." Perhaps Hardy had a touch of autism, but I feel that his is especially true with a child on the spectrum. The concept of time has been something that Konner, and most people with autism, doesn’t seem to understand, but they have a tighter grasp on time than most.
This is a bit of an extension of last week’s column, but Konner has really struggled with the concept of time since being on summer break from school. He was so used to going to bed at a certain time and getting up at a certain time, and leaving for school, and eating, and classes, and recess, etc. all at the same time each day. Now that structure is gone and he seems lost at times.
As I said last week, Konner has been really emotional lately, and I feel in ways that has to do with his lack of structure.
In school the teachers in the past have used timers, visual schedules, and verbal cues to help transition between time periods and activities. This is a great tool for the classroom, but it will work at home as well.
I had a reader send me a message a few weeks ago that I thought was a great idea. I have to confess I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it could work well. I had talked about how Konner seems to get up early and come in to talk, or tell me about what he is going to do with the computer.
He used to actually tell us that he needed to use the bathroom. He would come in during the wee hours of the morning and say, "Dad, I need to go pee." Then he would wait for me to tell him okay before he would go. That has luckily changed.
The suggestion from Laura Lawless was to give him a digital clock and tell him he can’t come out of his room until after a certain time, i.e. 5 a.m.
This can extend a little further into the day. You can make a schedule for the day and put down times for computer time, television time, iPad time, play time, eating, shower, bedtime, etc. These suggestions, like most, are great for any child, not just someone on the spectrum.
The longer days have Konner confused as well. He thinks it’s only night time when it’s dark outside. If it’s 6 p.m. I will say something like, "No we can’t do that tonight." Konner will respond, "Dad, it’s not night time yet. He doesn’t understand that it is evening and almost night. In turn he doesn’t understand why we can’t do something "tonight" when it’s still light outside. Of course, Kruz has the same issue.
Last night I told Konner that it was bedtime. It was around 8 p.m., and he said, "Dad, it can’t be bedtime. It can only be bedtime if it’s night, and it can only be night if the sky is black."
That’s not bad logic, but we’re working on it.