Simon's Chart

Two weeks ago Chris initiated the creation of a new chart for Simon.

I'm pretty sure the catalyst was a conversation we had while sitting in the driveway after visiting a middle school for Simon (that whole process is another story for another day). We were talking about structure, attitude, hopes & dreams, fears & frustrations, screen time, etc. The chart idea was originally brought up by a psychologist that we (and Simon) met with last summer - he encouraged a similar chart to establish a set of norms and rewards. We worked with it for a bit and then got distracted.

Basically, we let it go. And things were okay.

Fast forward to today and I'm thankful to Chris and Tiffany for taking the time to create and get a new chart going. This one is more specific than the previous one and deals more directly and concretely with screen time as a reward. The other chart had rewards like legos, pool time, new books, etc - all things he likes of course but not really as motivating or immediate.

The goal of this chart is specifically to create structure around screen time. Screen time (tv, computer, video games) is a big topic around here as Simon's definitely a fan of tv, movies and computer/video games. There's definitely a secondary benefit around teaching responsibility, respect, sharing of household duties, establishing clear expectations and routine (which we know he loves already).

The chart looks like this:

Keep in mind when looking at the chart that these tasks are very specific to Simon. Some are more relevant to Chris' house than my house and I'll be adjusting some of the tasks to reflect what needs to be worked on at my house (like feeding the animals). Anna's going to get a chart too and her responsibilities and extra credit tasks will be different from Simon's.

The chart includes a list of daily responsibilities that are simply non-negotiable things he needs to do each day. He needs to do them to even "qualify" to earn screen time. Some of these things he does daily already without complaint and others are a daily struggle.

The second list includes the ways he can earn screen time (with a max of two hours per day).

What we've learned in the last week and a half is that he's really motivated to earn screen time (feel like I should write "duh" here).

What I've noticed in just a week of using the chart is that he seems more present, more in tune, and more willing to do daily tasks without complaint. He's also eating non-preferred foods with less complaining (he's been doing much better in general with trying new foods, but it's still a big part of our daily dialogue and is anxiety inducing for him).

Last night he ate steak, roasted Brussels sprouts and peaches with minimal complaints. He fed the animals without me even asking him first - he saw the clock said 5pm and he knew it was time for them to eat. When he completes a task he goes over to the chart and puts a smiley face in the appropriate box.

I definitely still need to monitor the time he actually spends in front of a screen but this process has given us something concrete to turn to - something he understands because he can see it, read it and comprehend what needs to be done to earn time.

The lessons for me? Keep trying. Don't give up. Ask for help. Documentation and visual lists are great for Simon (again, not something new to me but I needed the reminder and, humbly, for someone to take the initiative and make it happen).

Go Simon, go.

EDITED | You can download the Excel version of this chart for customization here.

74 thoughts

  1. Diana Waite

    2013-03-13 09:56:49 -0400

    this is EXCITING!! Go Simon and way to make it real AND being patient!

  2. Karen S

    2013-03-13 10:38:43 -0400

    Thank you for sharing these parts of your life, Ali. Raising children is such a challenge and I am always eager to find systems that work. I just want to say that I am in awe of how you and Chris continue to do what's right for your kids. As a child of divorced parents that didn't, I have so much respect for the two of you. Your children will be grateful to you far in the future when they realize how hard that must have been at times.

  3. Jo-Ann

    2013-03-13 10:49:55 -0400

    Ali if you ever wonder if your a great Mom this is a perfect example of yes you are!

    And I know Chris is part of this but you to have done the right thing by putting the children first in a difficult situation. I have always believed that children only need one good parent not two halves of one. You and Chris have changed that believe, you both put Simon and Anna first and it shows in the love you both have for them. I love seeing the children grow and how open you are about things, makes me love you even more! Can't wait to see you in November for the trip to China!

  4. Suz

    2013-03-13 10:53:40 -0400

    Thanks for sharing this Ali! So awesome. Go. Simon. Go! WTG Momma too! Take care you,

  5. Karne

    2013-03-13 16:44:41 -0400

    Thank you for sharing this. I am struggling with screen time and daily tasks with my soon to be 7-year old son. I love your idea. I cannot thank you enough!

  6. Jennie

    2013-03-13 21:19:48 -0400

    Thank you so, so much for posting this. I have a six year old son on the spectrum and a typically developing four year old boy and have been wanting to implement something like this for both boys for a while now. This is so helpful. Thank you again!

  7. Kathy L

    2013-03-13 22:46:25 -0400

    Thank you for sharing. My son is 8 years old and we could definitely use this type of chart for similar reasons. Have struggled with what the chore chart should look like for an 8 year old and a reward structure. Last year we just started the school year with no TV during the week, wish we had started that this year. We have put off the electronic devices up to this point but this might be a good way to introduce them once we have put this in place. It's funny how we have to be reminded that kids crave structure but it is so true. Again, thank you for sharing.

  8. Tamera

    2013-03-13 22:53:37 -0400

    Ali, this is great! Thank you for sharing.

  9. Emmy

    2013-03-13 23:46:05 -0400

    First off...He has such great eyelashes! What a lucky kid! It always seems like the boys get those beauties! Congrats to you and Chris for working so hard to still both be present and committed to Simon and Anna. What an example you are to many out there. As an educator, I have seen firsthand the difference it makes when both parents are dedicated and can set aside personal differences for the benefit of the child. I am sure it may not always be easy, but I am so impressed with both of you for seeing the big picture and putting your children first! Inspiring!

  10. Tanya W

    2013-03-14 01:57:24 -0400

    This is a great chart and I think I will be modifying it for my son who loves screen time too! thanks for sharing and Go Simon Go!

  11. Lisa

    2013-03-14 07:03:20 -0400


    That is so awesome and exciting! My son is ADHD (on the more severe end of the spectrum). I totally understand his need for structure, his resistance for change and his motivation for screen time. This has always been in the back of mind to do, and humbly, like you, I needed this "push" to make the move to get it going. I am motivated by your positive results to create this type of visual aid and motivation, hopefully with less complaints and huffing, to do daily tasks and try new things. Thank you for the "push"!!

  12. Becky

    2013-03-14 11:25:11 -0400

    Love this Ali. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Jana Oliveira

    2013-03-14 14:34:30 -0400

    Simon seems pretty advanced as we can see he has at least some play skills my son is way younger he is 4 now with Autism and frustrates me sometimes that he just cares already for technology but I guess this things give to him what he can't see on toys.
    So we use in our benefit to teach I do video modeling for him and he watches it. Also we have a visual schedule as he is not that verbal, and he can't read yet. But they definitely learn what rewards are no matter the age.

  14. jennifer

    2013-03-14 20:04:44 -0400

    You're the best - I've been wanting to create something similar for my son. Thanks, you've made it that much easier. I'm completely with you on reducing screen time. The novelty of the iPad in this house has worn and it's become such an easy thing for the kids to grab all the time. we locked it down a while back. They don't like that they don't know the password but it's for the best! Good luck and go Simon, go! I can't believe how big he's gotten....take care.

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  16. Elisa Nishimura

    2013-03-15 20:38:10 -0400

    Thanks for sharing Ali! I need to do something similar for my kids.
    Glad to hear that Simon is doing well with his chart.

  17. marisa

    2013-03-16 17:44:32 -0400

    I love your chart :) Our HFA son has been constructing his own chart with our help for about a year or so. We had to do this for his computer time. He could sit on it all day researching whatever topic he loves at the moment or watching scenes over and over in a movie lol.

    It really does do for him what you explained it does for Simon. It's funny how this visual, these choices he chose can really motivate him.

    Oh boy in August we start middle school and yes that in itself is another whole story. We are more worried than he is but we do have some lone talks and explaining and calming down about life everyday in middle school.

    I hope you will update on how Simon is in school. It will give me comfort knowing I am not alone :)

  18. Shani Kowalczyk

    2013-03-18 16:56:40 -0400

    Thank you Ali for this, just at a time we needed some re-focus with our Autistic son. I have always been inspired by your journey with Simon. Fantastic to see how far Simon has come :-)

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  20. Dani

    2013-03-19 14:35:54 -0400

    I'm not able to access the Excel chart for some reason. I have a Mac but that's usually not an issue. Any chance of a pdf or other file sharing? It's a GREAT concept!!!

  21. Kelsey McEvoy

    2013-03-20 14:00:04 -0400

    Ahhh, such a great idea! One of those "why didn't I think of that" moments, for sure. My husband and I have been struggling with how to implement a system like this for my oldest daughter (she splits her time between our house and her dad's house), and this post came at a perfectly inspirational time. Thank you for sharing!

  22. Teresa Prince

    2013-03-22 09:20:37 -0400

    Thank you for the chart! Just printed one for each of our girls! Have "talked" about it for over a year but needed a little help too! Thank you and whoever set it up for you!!! :)

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  24. TAS

    2013-04-10 16:04:03 -0400

    Timers work great for keeping track of screen time. Use something with a bell or beeper and once you set it you can forget it until the beeper goes off.

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