Time concepts-“Understanding” passage of day.

In this post, I elaborate on how to extend time concepts to understand the passage of a day.

Follow-up post in continuation to my earlier post on –  “passage of time” concepts.

Calendar and timeMy son is who is speech delayed(on the spectrum) loves structure and has shown a strong preference for written schedules.  I have always used such schedules to curate his day and make it predictable.

However, I did experience issues as my son would keep requesting an activity on the schedule, while it was not the time for that yet!  I had taught him elapsed time concepts using visual timers, so had to always set these timers to let him know the cutoff for an activity.  While this worked perfectly, it quickly made me rethink as I had to set 2 timers?!  For e.g get ready to take a bath in 20 minutes.  And, then get ready to leave in 45 minutes.  That’s a lot of work and probably a confusing signal too.
Alternatively, he would also request an “activity/place to go” out of routine.  Like a Friday activity on Wednesday.   Bite me again, I was caught reiterating the scheduled activities!  Does this sound like your situation?  Then read along.

I had to go back and sound out the day of the week and that it was NOT the day for what he is requesting.  Sometimes,  explain how something will happen later in the day if that’s the case.  Like we don’t go out now, but after lunch in the afternoon.  I quickly realized that with an understanding of the time and day concept his emotional regulation would get better.

So here is what I broke down the problem into:-

  1. The kid needs to understand the passage of time or elapsed time.
  2. Understand his/her schedule and sort of have the independence to advocate something else/accept changes.
  3. Which means the understanding of the day and time, preferably also period of the day.
  4. Mapping the day and time with a scheduled activity.

Gradually, I taught him to read clocks(both digital and analog).  Start small teach time by the hour and then progress to time by the half-hour.  Take a pick on which clock(digital or analog) works better to start with.  However, work to teach both.  In my research, I stumbled on this lovely product a Calendar Clock which is meant/marketed for elderly people with dementia.  I can’t express how elated I felt to try it for addressing my special needs.

So, here is a quick brief about the product

Calendar clock

As you can see it clearly spells out the time, date, the month without abbreviation.  As a huge bonus, it spells out the period of time Morning, afternoon, evening, night, predawn, etc.

  • The clock screen is about 10 inches long, measured diagonally.  It has around 12 alarms – 4 medicine reminders & 8 normal alarms.  I have currently set up medicine alarms and the alarm rings until it’s turned off.  So it’s a good reminder to finish the task and set the alarm off. Volume is adjustable, however, these alarms are not annoying at all.
  • The screen brightness can be adjusted manually or has auto adjustments.  It charges via a USB port also has a remote control.
  • You can set the display in any of the 9 languages (English, Chinese, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Polish, Dutch, and Welsh)  kind of versatile.
  • Use it as a table or wall clock and here is the best one- It can be used as an optional digital photo frame.  How cool is that!  I wish it ran on batteries, as that would have not limited its placement close to a socket.

Well with this one product, my son made phenomenal progress in understanding the morning- afternoon- evening-night cycle and the activities tied to that corresponding period.  This is the first thing he will wake up and run to.  The pattern of changing into the next day of the week and the date is so motivating to him.  I  have to just reinforce the day and time once- like we leave for a certain activity at “10:00 am”.  And he needs no reminders, no prompts to transition.  They have a slightly smaller version of the same product(9-inch screen with similar features) here.
Day clock 8 inch

What did I do?

So, I bought the clock, wasted no further time, and made the visuals below.



  • Then, I paired one of the visuals with the clock(like in picture above) and would offer a delayed pause for my son to respond.  Today is “Monday”,  we goto ______________.  And he was able to joyfully relate and tell me!  There came a time in just 5 days, that he started confirming his scheduled activity, without any prompts!
  • Next, I started offering only verbal callouts. E.g At 2:00 pm we go to the park.  And he would look up at the clock, absolutely no perturbance, would have a sound understanding of when to leave/what to expect.
  • We quickly moved on to learning “tomorrow will be?”.  So today is ________, tomorrow will be ________.  So, we get to do ________ tomorrow.
  •  I am in the process of putting up a schedule with clocks adjacent to them.  And that is a ton of learning feeding into many aspects of his wellbeing.

Final thoughts:-

Uniquely, packaging the calendar and time, this clock has expedited my son’s learning.  He is now aware of what period of the day, he gets to do something along with the corresponding day and time. 
Here is what changed within a couple of weeks of using this clock.
-This has gotten my son into a mode of self-initiated processing of his tasks.  I see an increase in on‐task and on‐schedule behavior.
-He can advocate for change in activities independently, improving his speech.
– And most importantly, his emotional regulation has improved by leaps and bounds.  Do you have any idea what all this could mean to a minimally verbal child and his parent?!  Calendar skills are essential for any child striving for independence and ties directly into their daily living.  I strongly recommend this clock if you have a special needs child/adult at home.  You cannot go wrong with this one!

calendar and time pin


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