Orientation in time

Recommendation 104
Position visual timetables in their own designated zone in the classroom, along with a silent clock

Chapter (theme)
Interior design (visualizations)

Because of
Central coherence, executive problems (planning, working memory), vestibular problems (sense of time)

In order to
nhance orientation in time and to compensate for executive weaknesses.

Several autistic problems can hamper orientation in time.
Among these are:
weak Central coherence which may lead to a fragmentary perception of time; “Literal interpretation of language linked with inflexible thinking can lead to a range of issues among which conceptualizing the passage of time,” says The autism toolbox. “If the pupil is told “we will finish at 10am” he/she is likely to expect to finish precisely at that time. Similarly vague references to time such as “we will do that later” may provoke anxiety as they are meaningless to the child with ASD.”
Moreover, vestibular problems (see ‘the 7 senses’, may hamper the sense of time.
One might add that the ordering of activities as such is a challenge to many on the spectrum, quite apart from problems with time itself.

The aforementioned ‘Autism toolbox’ gives several guidelines on how to address the risk of disorientation; here, as throughout this site, we are concerned with the architectural preconditions and solutions for this problem. McAllister & Maguire, writing about young children in special education, propose “making a provision for the positioning of the visual timetable in its own designated zone in the classroom.” They elaborate: “It is the point of reference in the classroom that helps the pupil understand and prepare for what is happening in the class. Consideration therefore must be given to where this is positioned.  It should be in a location where the pupils can easily access it with enough space around it to aid the pupils in recognizing and locating it within the classroom. It should also be in a position where pupils visiting it do not disturb pupils working nearby. The visual timetable itself needs to be placed at a height suitable for young children to read it.”

An architect affiliated to the Dr. Leo Kannerhuis adds: “the lettering should be kept small, so they don’t demand attention from larger distances”, explaining they should be used by pupils who want to consult them and not distract others.
The function of such time tables obviously enables pupils to prepare themselves for various activities in order to reduce stress. Also, it gives them time to organize their materials and resources.

Clocks which don’t tick or hum, positioned in strategic places both inside and outside the classroom contribute considerably to the need for orientation.

The Toolbox adds that cues might be added by teachers to show clearly when classes end and a piece of work should be finished. Younger children respond well to kitchen timers and sand timers. There are also a number of timers commercially available aimed at pupils with additional support needs.