The day of one shortened ride
Saturday at this time Charlie and I were walking (with a little update)

How do you represent time concepts in things? (an assignment for myself)

Charlie again insisted on a shortened ride on Friday afternoon after school, and then one, two, three walks.

His mood has been cheery (even on an insomniac Friday night, expected after a deep and long sleep the night before).

The theory Jim and I are batting around is that he is just pulling out of post-mom-gone-traumatic-stress syndrome and, perhaps, insisting on a shorter ride to put to rest gnawing anxiety that Mom, as last weekend, will not be home after the bike rides. Jim has been going on the walks though I am the main walker, keeping up with Charlie's race walk pace.

From last week's trip, I have been thinking a lot about how to explain time concepts to Charlie. Picture schedules, social stories and calendars have seemed increasingly ineffective.

One thing did seem somewhat helpful. Before I left for California last Saturday night, I had set out two sets of shirts shorts and underwear for Charlie, with post-it notes saying Sunday and Monday atop. Getting dressed is of course something Charlie does everyday, in the clothes I lay out (left to his own devices, he chooses the same set of clothes every day). Putting on different sets of clothes signifies that it is a different day.

To teach Charlie about 'how many days till X' perhaps what is needed is some activity involving things that he can use or do, to help him experience the passing time?

Ideas only as things.


Melanie Harper

This is a really tough, abstract concept. My kid didn't really pick it up until we started having regular after-school activities that he liked. So, Monday is "Miss Michele" = OT, Tuesday is "Coach Stacy" = gymnastics, etc. Longer durations, like waiting for July to go to the beach are less cemented in his head, but he can read the calendar and anticipate something good happening in the future. We're on vacation now, and without his regular activities he has indeed lost track of the days, but hey, I kinda have too ;)

Life Skills Teacher

Looking at the work done with schedule boxes (for the visually impaired/deafblind) might give ou some useful ideas


Do you use calendars? I have two. One at school and one at home which are identical. Visual supports work best for Adam. As well, associations work too -- Tuesdays he sees his dad, Wednesdays OT, etc. Sounds like you are also dealing with transitional stress. I use a lot of verbal and written repetition, first, thens. I get Adam to repeat what I've said many times -- it's kind of like a game. I'm not sure if any of this is stuff you are not already doing.


Is Charlie still using the food schedule (i.e. Mondays are burrito days)? Maybe he could learn that two days meant "burrito, then sushi, then Whatever He's Waiting/Prepping For"?

Kristina Chew

@Melanie, yours and @Estee's comments are reminding me, we used to rely on after-school activities -- gymnastics, ABA, OT, speech -- to help define the days. Then when Charlie was about 11 or 12 those activities disappeared -- just became harder to find activities based on his behavior issues and age.

@Melanie, does your son mind not keeping track of the days?

@Life Skills Teacher, thank you for the schedule box suggestion; am looking into it.

@Jennifer, we've kind of veered off using the food schedule as for awhile Charlie seemed to be managing fine without it. But then we lost one of the places to go because they have temporarily out of an item Charlie really likes (crackers) -- we did go once last week and he handled the lack of his preferred item all right -- anyways, I do think I need to work on a new schedule with summer on the horizon!

@Estee, calendars once worked and now they don't seem to for Charlie, nor does anything 2-d including things like the First-Then and Social Stories iPad apps. (Sigh) Sometimes they just seem to agitate him more! We have to be careful about the verbal repetition because Charlie tends to obsess on certain words and items. I was making a calendar for him before I left on my trip and he got upset -- I guess they have picked up some negative associations. Need to work on this --

Sorry if I sound as if I'm shying away from all options. All your comments are spurring me to think which I really need to do, thank you!


Great question. My son and I have a vacation week coming up next Saturday (airplanes, rental cars, etc), and of course, it's not soon enough for him . I have a couple of calendars as well, one I usually print from the Hotmail Calendar page as well as a small marker board that we draw a week's worth of days on and that seems to help a lot. In fact, he's taking to writing in "events" on the marker board himself, which is outstanding (even if his pick of the days isn't always right - I suspect it's more of an attempt to persuade me what the right days actually ARE ;-)).

Melanie Harper

@Kristina, he actually doesn't mind random time and just hanging out as long as he's in a location he doesn't mind and has things to do/watch. He will ask about the day's plan - "Today is Tuesday play water?" but if I say "I don't know.", he's OK. Must admit that I am really random by nature and have no natural sense of time (probably ADD myself), so from infancy he had to go with the flow as much as a "classical spectrum" kiddo probably can. As long as his tummy and backside are happy, he's adaptable. Waiting quietly at the doc's office or sitting through an entire church service isn't a strong skill, but if he can sit ON me and squeeze the life out of me, he'll endure. He's 4'4" and 62 lbs already, so yikes. He spent our vacation week going to splash parks (a different one every day), "reading" or playing with his iPad or other toys, cuddling various family members, and as long as there were plenty of crunchy snacks, he did well. He does perseverate on directions, car logos and travel in general, so road trips are right up his alley, even for 12 hours...

Another thought - what about a more 3D-type stackable or magnetic calendar like the Melissa & Doug ones? Or how about something that doesn't even look a calendar to avoid neg. associations, more like strips of paper or cardboard that list activities, and just sequence the activities and frequency somewhere that he can access? It's kind of PECS/visual calendar-ish, but not a numbered, dated calendar. I'm just free-flowing here - it's late!

Kristina Chew

@Greg, I like the idea of the marker board -- i used to have one for Charlie but ended up doing most of the writing (his writing skills are minimal). But might be time to try again! Hoping your vacation week goes well -- does your son like all the travel?

Kristina Chew

@Melanie, thank you for the suggestions -- I'll look up the 3d calendars. I think Charlie has gotten some negative associations from the way I have been doing the calendars, writing them out by hand; time for something new.

Envy you the road trips! We used to do them all the time; now Charlie doesn't like to spend so much time in the car. Now that you mention it about your guy, Charlie is ok with some hanging out so long as he has a sense of what comes next and when and what he can do in the time given. Sometimes we over-schedule things!

My husband has ADHD and I think that has helped Charlie a lot -- works well with/against his tendency towards rigidity and over-order.

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