I began working at a large care home as a support worker during November 2006. My initial job requirements were to work one to one with a number of adults on the Autistic Spectrum, varying from individuals with Aspergers Syndrome to individuals with Classic Autism. During my time as a support worker I worked with individuals who had dual conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder, epilepsy, eating disorders.
After a number of months I began to work solely with a young man who had been living at the home for a long time. He had a diagnosis of Learning Disability, and Autism. He had displayed a number of challenging behaviours since his teens, including assaultative behaviour. His most frequent, and high impact behaviour was self injurious in nature.
It started to become apparent to me that the young man would struggle to make sense of intervals creating a problem that made organization and knowing when the next event will take place difficult to understand.
He would struggle with phrases such as “soon” or “not long”. These words had no meaning for him and would create great confusion at times of heightened anxiety. Although neuro typical people have learned to measure it, time is intangible; we cannot see it. This explained why the young man and many people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder have difficulties understanding the difference between “now” and “not now” and time measurements such as “5 minutes”. At this point I realized the importance of making time visual. I did as much reading as I could on the subject and came across a concept, that I felt could help to alleviate the young mans anxieties. An easy to design ‘clock’ that would present the interval in a way that was easy to understand.
I removed the electric pack from the inside works of a clock. It had a spoke out the front for the clock hands. I had a clock face made from a thin piece of ply wood painted white, I drilled a hole in the centre. It was a traditional clock but I only needed an hour clock, so removed the 12 hour hand. In the centre right of the board I placed a piece of velcro and then proceeded to take pictures of everything relevant to the timetable of the young man throughout the week. The pictures could be stuck to the board, giving the young man a visual representation of when the next event would take place. It did not take long for him to understand the concept and as soon as he did, there was a large decrease in his challenging behaviour.
I eventually went on to work with a different group of individuals but would often think of how the idea could be improved upon. One day while listening to a pod cast about a speech and language therapist who had used his knowledge to combine with the technology of the Ipad to create apps that helped his clients, it dawned on me that the Ipad would be the perfect platform to create a more advanced version of the device I had used in the past.
I took the plans to a designer who in a short time was able to create an app which I chose to call ‘Activity Timer’
Activity Timer, like the original concept is a visual representation of the intervals between activities. A timer can be set which resembles half of a traditional clock face, but without the numbers. When the
timer finishes it arrives at a photographic representation of the activity. Whoever takes the photo can then set the length of time until the next activity, and do this as many times as they wish throughout the day.
I hope it can be of some help to the numerous members of the autistic community.