What to do with “Wait Time”: Assemblies

  • Situation

    I have a student who has a difficult time waiting. School assemblies and other events are difficult for him. How can I help reduce his anxiety during times when we have to wait for a variety of reasons as waiting for the ‘show’, or waiting for many other classes to arrive?

  • Summary

    The problem may be too much unstructured time. Children often don’t know how to occupy themselves during “down time” or wait time.

    • Plan ahead when you know you may be in situations with your child in which waiting may occur.
    • Use a “wait bag” or “fidget bin” which may be filled with your child’s favorite items and toys.
    • Allow your child to choose from the wait bag during the waiting period and collect the item when the wait time is over.
    • Limit access to items in the bag so your child with special needs is motivated by the wait bag for future events.
  • Definition

    Waiting is difficult to do for many children. Too long of a wait can lead to challenging behaviors. A “what if,” “wait bag,” or “fidget bin” filled with favorite items can be utilized when faced with unpredictable, unstructured time. Planning ahead of time for situations in which waiting occurs can greatly reduce unwanted behaviors.

  • Quick Facts

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

    Knowledge of high preference items reserved for specific situations

  • Process

    1. Prepare a bag containing high preference toys/object.s

    2. Remember to take “wait bag” with you prior to leaving for an activity if “wait time” might occur.

    3. While waiting give “wait bag” to child or allow child to choose item from “wait bag”.

    4. Collect “wait bag” after activity/event.

    5. Prepare “wait bag” for next use.

    6. Limit access to items in bag so they remain enticing.

  • Documents and Related Resources

    “Managing Wait Times for Children with Special Needs” by Marilyn Hoyson, Ph.D. and Andrea Morris, M.Ed.


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