Visual Timer

  • Situation

    How do I help a student transition from a preferred activity?

  • Summary

    Set the timer and verbally tell the student they have until the time is up, or runs out, depending on type of timer used. You may want to give the student a cue as the time winds down.

  • Definition

    A visual timer is an object that shows the progression of time. This can be a kitchen timer that can be set for x amount of time and then a bell goes off, indicating the time is up. It can be a visual timer without an auditory cue, which indicates time is up when the “red” portion runs out. Some students may be able to use their own watch and set the alarm as a signal for when time is up. A simple sand timer that one finds in games can be used as well.

  • Quick Facts

    • Child's Age: 3-5, 6-10, 11-13, 14-17, 18+
    • Planning Effort: Low
    • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Pre-requisites

    Ability to understand auditory cues and/or visual cues

  • Process

    1. Start by placing the timer near the student as you work with him on an activity and set the timer.

    2. Prompt him to periodically look at the timer and provide a reminder that the activity is finished    when time is up.

    3. Use repeated trials to practice this skill.

    4. After the student shows understanding, use the timer during transitions from preferred activities.

    5. Always reinforce the student for appropriately transitioning.

  • Documents and Related Resources

     Different Roads (link to website for purchase)


    National Autism Resources (link to website for purchase)


    This resource was authored by Watson Institute Special Education Consultant, Katie Bentz, M.Ed.

    If you have questions or concerns about the Watson Institute’s use of this information, please contact us.