Occupational Therapist Robyn Colley and the Time Timer


Editor's Note: This week, to celebrate Occupational Therapy Month, Time Timer brings you a guest blog by pediatric OT Robyn Colley. Note how she uses the Time Timer to clarify expectations and help children of all age and ability levels achieve independence. 

As a pediatric Occupational Therapist, I often work with children who have transition difficulties or have a disorganized nervous system (generally both). The Time Timer has been an important tool in my practice for over a decade. 

Children need to be able to transition without feeling over-stimulated, frustrated, or mad. 

But they also need help knowing how and when to transition. Just telling a child that she has "five more minutes" and expecting her to comply is a lot to ask.

Many people set a kitchen timer that counts down. This can be over-stimulating due to the ticking or bell sound at the end - and over-stimulation does not help transitions! A kitchen timer also does not teach the concept of time.

I truly believe children learn the concept of time by using the Time Timer. They can see the difference between 5 minutes or 45 minutes. Then, when they connect what they see to what they feel, time is not so daunting. 

A major goal of Occupational Therapy is independence. It is important that children have the skills and the components to be independent with their daily living skills. Parents are often very rushed or frazzled and admit they just get their child dressed or do other tasks for them for the sake of time. 

Setting a Time Timer and being clear (whether with pictures, printed words, or verbal prompts) about the expectations helps a child work toward the goal within the allotted time. 

I often use the Time Timer iPhone App when I am in a school helping a child transition from their classroom. I don't always carry the actual Timer around the halls with me but I can easily pull out my phone and show a child how long he will be gone from class so he feels more comfortable with the transition. 

The Time Timer is such an important part of my practice that I now actually retail them for parents to purchase. I also keep one handy at home even though my own children can now tell time.

There is just something about seeing the red disappear that helps to motivate even my slowest child!

Pediatric Occupational Therapist Robyn Colley specializes in helping chilren with Sensory Processing Disorders via her Central Florida practice. Occupational Therapy improves the functioning of a child's nervous system and enables children to play, complete school work, and transition to adulthood successfully. Robyn connects all the professionals in the child's life, ensuring a whole-child approach to learning the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). Learn more about her expertise at www.colleyot.com.

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  • Heather Rogers