Home » Chapter 5: The FASD Student & Learning Issues » Difficulty with Temporal Concepts & Time Management

Difficulty with Temporal Concepts & Time Management

Time is an abstract concept, and many FASD students find the concept of time meaningless or confusing. Abstract concepts of time, such as “morning”, “yesterday”, “before”, “in a while”, “later”, telling time, and being aware of the passage of time, are difficult ideas for these students to grasp. We experience the passage of time because we have an internal clock. We are able to distinguish between fifteen minutes and two hours. The FASD student’s world is driven by internal or external stimulation, rather than by an internal clock or the concept of time. These students are “in the moment” and flit from one activity to theclock next. They experience a disorientation in time and can experience feeling “lost” in the day. For example, a student may not know if it is before or after recess.

The language of time is confusing—quarter to 3 is the same as 2:45, half past 2 is the same as 2:30. Even if a student does learn how to “tell time,” the meaning of it may elude them. They may learn how to count by fives yet continue to read 1:20 as 1:4. Digital watches may be used as a strategy to help students learn how to tell time. However, even if the student can tell you that the time is 11:55, he may not be able to tell you that it’s almost 12:00 or that it is 5 minutes before lunchtime.

I told her it was quarter past 12.
She said: “It’s not quarter past 12 – the microwave says 12:15…”
“It can’t be quarter past 12 because a quarter is 25 cents and 25 isn’ t 15.”
“And…12:45 has a five in it like a quarter…so …quarter past 12 is 12:45.”
“Quarter to 12 is 25 minutes to 12.”
(Lasser, 1999)

Due to these difficulties with time, students are often late for class. They may not understand when their assignments are due, and so these often handed in late. This may lead to the mis- perception that they are purposely misbehaving.

David’s teacher asked him to buy (another) digital watch so that he could go from his regular class to his special class on his own.
The teacher had given up teaching David to tell time. Instead, he gave David a piece of paper with 9:45 written on it.
He told David when his digital watch matched the piece of paper, he should go to his other class.
He never got there, because he did not happen to be looking at his watch when 9:45 came around.
As far as David was concerned, 9:47 or 9:55 was not 9:45.
He just kept wandering around waiting for 9:45 to happen.
(Kleinfeld and Wescott, 1993).

The FASD student often has difficulty with temporal concepts and time management. Difficulties may include:

  • Understanding the concept of time
  • Recognizing or “feeling” time passing
  • Reading or understanding a clock or watch
  • Understanding the abstract language of time
  • Prioritizing which assignments/projects to work on first
  • Ability to plan for future projects
  • Knowing how to start an assignment
  • Planning the steps needed for an assignment
  • Knowing when an assignment or project is completed