by Scott Lutosanski
I often have conversations with students about getting to places on time. They usually vary in the details, but all center on the same theme. Below, I have included a culmination of many conversations that I have had with students.
Me: So what time do you have to leave to be on time for practice?
Student: It’s a five minute drive to school, so I have to leave at 5:55.
Me: Well I know practice starts at 6, but shouldn’t you be out on the field a few minutes before then?
Student: Yeah, I guess I’ll give myself 5 extra minutes. I’ll leave at 5:50. Then I can be out there and warmup for 5 minutes or so.
Me: Okay. Do you have to get ready and change in the locker room before you head out to the field?
Student: Oh yeah, that usually takes me about 5 minutes. I guess I should leave at around 5:45.
Me: Ok. That sounds like a plan.
Students: Cool. I’ll tell my friend Dave I’m leaving my house at 5:45 to pick him up.
Me: You have to pick up your friend too? Is he on the way to school?
Student: No. He’s like 5 minutes the other direction.
Me: Ok. So you need to account for that.
Student: Oh yeah, so another 5 minutes. So 5:40 is when I’ll leave.
Me: Yeah, but you have to go 5 minutes backwards, and then it will take you 10 more minutes to get to school from his house.
Student: I didn’t think about that. Ok, so I should be out the door at 5:30.
Me: That sounds like a plan. Anything else you’re forgetting?
Student: Nope, I think that’s everything.
Me: Ok. you better get going now then. It’s 5:30.
Student: Yep. I’ll talk to you later.
Time management often gets shoved to the forefront as a major executive functioning (EF) challenge. That is for good reason; it is a major component of EF struggles. However, time awareness can also be challenging. This can present itself in two ways. The first, as demonstrated above, is having no concept of how time is used and consumed by activities. The second is a complete lack of awareness of the passing of time.
This lack of awareness of the passage of time will usually happen during an engaging activity that allows the student to disconnect their senses from the environment around them. This happens most frequently with video games, but it can also happen with reading, homework, social media, and TV to name a few. The student will feel as though 5 minutes have passed when, really, it has been 5 hours. The opposite of this can also occur. When a student has to study for a Physics exam they hate, they will study for 10 minutes before stopping. They may think that they did 2 hours worth of work, but this is not the case.
Assuming that students understand time seems safe, but it may be entirely wrong. It may also mean that being constantly late, getting lost in a game, or not using time appropriately is not done on purpose but because of a skill deficiency with time. Building time awareness is crucial for students struggling with EF and ADHD. They need to develop the ability to recognize and understand time both when preparing, in the moment, and when reflecting. This can be supported through straightforward questions. For instance, if a student finishes their homework, ask them, “How long do you think that assignment took you?” Or after driving somewhere new, “How long was that drive?” Or before an event is to take place (ex: golfing 9 holes), make them predict how long it will take. These are small, simple questions that will help support time awareness. A couple questions each day will add up and go a long way towards promoting students to be more conscious of time and how it is consumed throughout the day.