Tick Tick Tick – We all love Timers!

Visual timers can be so useful to communicate the concept of time elapsing to our students and clients. A traditional clock interface can be too complex for some of the people that we support, and so you might need a more simple and graphical way of representing the time, with or without numbers.  With visual timers you don’t need to know how to tell the time to know how much time is left.

Timers can be useful for ANYONE for:

  • Providing a visual reminder of the time left on a particular activity;
  • Transitioning  to new activities;
  • Reducing frustration;
  • Improving independence through self-monitoring and time management;
  • Helping students keep focused.

Now I’m sure you are aware of physical timers such as the Time Timers – which definitely still have a place for providing a static visual display in the physical environment such as the classroom or in the home. You can get them in different sizes and with or without audible bells. They can be suitable to refer to in a group situation and are always visible, regardless of the activity you are working on.

But as always – there is an app for that!

There are so many timer apps that are available, some that are fairly generic and were designed for other purposes and others which offer fairly unique features for people with special needs, a small selection of these include:

  • Time Timer: still a great comprehensive timer, even in app format! You can set multiple timers and have more than one running at once, and in the background. It allows you to display the clock in three modes (minutes, custom or clock). You can also choose whether the audible signal is on and whether you want the device to vibrate.
  • Timer +: A nice free alternative for a simple digital visual display which can also run multiple timers, and play these in the background. Only suitable for those who can understand digital displays though.
  • Visual Timer HD: Reveals a photo as the time elapses, but the time is set for 60 minutes and reveals the portion of the picture in relation to that time.
  • Stop-Go!: is a great one providing a visual support in the form of a traffic light, with red for stopping, yellow for waiting and green for go!
  • BANG! BOOM! Buzzer (Countdown Timer): Has a large red button with some predetermined times, or you can set your own custom time. It comes with three included sounds but you can upgrade and record your own sounds that play when the time elapses.

You may know of some other great ones that you want to share with us?

NEWSFLASH: Did you know that in the latest iOS 6 update, that within the clock app which is included in the suite of iPad apps, it actually now has an option for a simple visual timer! Now – it is fairly basic and allows you to set one timer, from one minute up to 24 hours, but it does have a visible disc that counts down along with the digital display. You can pause this timer and you can play it in the background of other apps, and at the end it will sound a tone which you have selected. Basic – but might be exactly the free option that you need to get the message across. Make sure you upgrade and check it out!

Do you have some great ideas for using timers? We’d love to hear from you!

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About Katie Lyon

Katie is a speech pathologist and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) consultant who has been working with young children and adults with complex communication needs for the past 13 years. She has had worked in various roles including Coordinator of the Non-electronic Communication Aid Scheme and Regional Communication Service in Victoria as part of the state-wide Communication Access Network. She has a keen interest in supporting families, teachers, direct support workers and therapists to access information about AAC and assistive technology through education and training. She currently works part-time with Spectronics and part-time with the Communication Resource Centre at Scope in Victoria.

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