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Tips for Using Time Out Chairs for Students with Disabilities

written by: Kathy Foust • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 9/11/2012

Time outs and time out chairs can be very useful tools if they are used in the right way. Here are some tips to help make sure teachers get the most out of the time-out area for students with disabilities.

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    Tips for Creating the Perfect Time-Out Area

    Time outs and time out chairs can be effective tools if used properly. The best use of a time out area is to provide the child with a place to narrow down his world in order to calm down and get his thoughts and behavior together. In particular, autistic children are easily overwhelmed by outside stimuli, and they need a space where they can calm themselves down. This is what the time-out area should be used for in classrooms designed for students with special needs. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your time-out area.

    • Make it clear that time-outs are not for punishment. Instead, they are tools to use in order to calm down and reflect on inappropriate behaviors or things that may be agitating the child.
    • Define an area that is to be used only for time-outs.
    • Make sure the time out area is free of clutter and decorated in neutral and comforting tones.
    • Place a comfortable seat in the area, but make sure it's one that the children cannot hurt themselves on, such as a beanbag chair or one of the many versions of time out chairs.
    • Have the children design comforting items to take with them to time-out, such as posters. Instructions for creating such posters and setting them up can be found in my article titled, "Tips for Making Time-Out Posters."
    • Allow the children to take a comfort item to time-out with them. This may be a stuffed animal or blanket.
    • Do not try having lengthy conversations with the children before they go to time-outs. Instead, guide them to the time-out area and explain that they can let you know when they are ready to come out. Let them know that you would like them to take at least (however many) minutes to calm down, however. Explain that you will talk to them when they are ready.
    • Discourage the other children from discussing the child that is in time-out. This can cause further agitation for a child who is already upset.
    • Once the child is ready to come out of time-out, take him aside and process the situation with him in private. Respect the fact that he was somehow upset and provide him with some privacy to process this.

    Time outs should provide a child with the means to self-comfort. While the child is reflecting, the time-out also gives the teacher and the rest of the class a chance to calm down after chaotic events. Encourage the children to calm down while you plan ahead, so that you can have some time alone with the special needs student when he/she comes out of time-out.

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