Ask Sylvia: Teen with Autism Struggles to Manage Time

This is the second edition of Ask Sylvia, and I’m having a lot of fun with these! You can submit a scenario by clicking on the ASK tab above.

Dear Sylvia,
Whenever I want my teen to leave to go somewhere, he will say he is ready, but when it is really time to go he is not ready. He thinks the appointment time is when you start getting ready. If an appointment is at 2pm, then in his mind, that is when you get ready. How do I get him ready for events and appointments? This happens even when it is something he really wants to do. (He can read and understand a paragraph without help—I’ve tried nagging him, giving him responsibility, and taking things away). –Expecting More

Dear Expecting More,
Understanding the concept of time (and applying it in a practical way) is a common challenge for folks on the autism spectrum. You could try changing the way you speak about appointments, and refer to the time you start getting ready (“We’re going to get ready for school at 6:45am” instead of “We go to school at 7:15”). I would also start presenting a written outline of what needs to be done to get ready. Here is a photo example of what I mean. Present the schedule earlier in the day and go over it. Tell your teen that you will tell him when it is time to start getting ready, and see if he will check off the items as he works through the schedule. You might have to write him a note explaining about ‘getting ready for appointments’. See this handout for examples of written explanations, and maybe this one about teaching schedules. GOOD LUCK! I’d be excited to hear how it works! –Sylvia

ASK sylvia schedule

Leave a Reply