Telling the time from an old-fashioned round clock face is not always that easy. Many children have great difficultis learning to accomplish this everyday task and with more and more digital time readouts available on phones, in cars or on the plethora of other screens surrounding us, there is less pressure to learn to do so.But even if we can get by in life without being able to read a traditional clock, there are underlying causes to this difficulty that have much wider consequences, such as difficulties with mathematics (Dyscalculia), time management, organisation and even gross motor skills. Here I'll discuss some of the most common triggers that lead to this specific problem and give some suggestions of how you can help your child to develop this area.
Sense of timeIf we have a poor sense of time, then any clock, analogue or digital, becomes rather irrelevant. Our sense of time resides in the left side of our brain while the right hemisphere is totally unaware of the passing of time. The left side is also good at planning, sequencing, the past and the future and extrapolating future consequences from past experiences. The right side of the brain is impulsive and is aware of the whole, but not the detail of any inflowing information. To be aware of time durations, plan activities or imagine future events, we need the left side of our brain to get fully involved and 'take charge'. Infants operate very much from the right side of the brain and are also clearly unaware of time. But from the age of four onwards, this sense of time mostly improves and the left side processing kicks in. But sometimes this shift in processing from right to left hemisphere is delayed, hence a poor sense of time. It is not uncommon in some adults and many artists, for instance, derive their creativity from using their right brain to the full, while being late for appointments and loosing all sense of time when they are working away. The SAS music programmes are specifically designed to strengthen the connectivity between the two side of the brain and can improve sense of time.
In addition of sensing the passing of time, we also need to be able to put time sequences in order, one after the other. Most of us will imagine a time line that stretches from the past, though the present and into the future. My time line starts behind me on my left, moves just in front of me (the present) and disappears into the far distance to my right ahead of me. Others will have a different time line though, from left to right, from right to left, up or down, the human imagination is varied and very personal. Some, and probably the children that find telling the time difficult, may not have made such a mental image at all. I guess that almost nobody will have a time line that goes round in a circle. But that's how the clock face has been designed - a very artificial construct. As an intermediate step it may be useful to introduce a linear, horizontal time line to your child, like the one depicted below. This may be much easier to imagine and with added pictures does not rely on reading ability. By using colours and shapes it is possible to start making a link to the round clock face. Linear Time Line