If you came into my office at work, you would see that my office is quite plain. This is by design. Like any good therapist that works with children and adolescents, my office used to be cluttered with toys, doll houses, stuffed animals, art supplies, fidgets and so on. As I started to see more and more kids on the spectrum, these things became more and more of a distraction. My clients were more interested in my stuff than in me! Since part of my job is to help promote social interaction, the stuff had to go. I wanted to be the most interesting thing in my office to my clients! A lofty goal to be sure but I am setting my sights high!
I also want to create a calm environment. Too much stuff can be so overstimulating for the type of clients that I see. And to be honest I don’t want my office to be too comfy. A few years ago I had a soft comfy couch for my clients to sit on, but I had more than one curl up and try to go to sleep! Now I have firm chairs that do not promote nap time! The few toys, art supplies and fidgets that I have I keep put away, and I only get them out if I think they will be help us accomplish a therapeutic task.
This all makes me sound a bit tough but really that is not my MO at all! I just want to get something done during the time I have with my client. If I display the legos, my clients will gladly spend all their time playing with the legos. If I keep out the art supplies, my clients would be happy to spend their time drawing instead of talking about problems and feelings!! Who wants to do that, especially if talking about feelings is already really difficult!
There is one item I do display in my office, right on my desk.This is a completely unsolicited plug for my favorite gadget – the Time Timer. And no, I am in no way connected with the company! Many of my clients have great difficulty understanding time. I want them to know they are not stuck in my office working on skills for an interminable amount of time, just 45 minutes. So, I set the Time Timer, and let them know that when the red is gone, their time is up, they can pick out a prize (the most popular prize in my treasure chest is my rapidly diminishing supply of old Pokeman cards that my own kids used to collect years ago) and leave. They can see the red zone shrinking down as the 45 minutes elapse. I have had a few stare at it so much that for those clients I have had to put the Time Timer away too! But most of the time it helps us get through the therapy session more successfully.
Most of my readers are probably not therapists, but this concept applies to helping your child structure homework time, chore time, even time out time! If your child has trouble with understanding time I recommend trying a Time Timer (and try keeping a lot of the other distractions put away while you are at it!).
Do you have a favorite gadget? Do tell!