Using Timers to Increase On Task Behavior


Timers are especially useful for students who are competitive and capable of completing the task, just lack the attention span. I have found sand timers to be the most effective. They don’t beep, which can sometimes distract other students. Because they don’t beep, students often don’t even realize the time has ended. This is fine though, because the goal is to get the student working and on task, not to increase their speed.

sand timers

These timers can be found here!

Timers can also be used to count down the amount of time a task will take. As adults, we naturally count down tasks thats aren’t preferred. Take running on a treadmill for example. I don’t think there’s a point in time that I am not counting down each second left to go. Unless you are super athletic and enjoy cardio (obviously, I do not), then it helps to know how much time you have left before you can feel accomplished. I think it’s what makes success feel so great. You could have stopped 10 minutes ago, but you pushed yourself. Children with attention problems, specifically low executive function skills*, lack the understanding of time. A timer is the replacement to this skill deficit and reassures them that the end of this miserable run is in sight. 

*What on earth are executive function skills? Click here to read post #1 from this blog series to learn a little bit more about what executive function is and how it’s related to ADHD.


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