Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

March 12, 2013

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.


  • 1.
    dawn said…

    GO, SIMON, GO!!

  • 2.
    Jo said…

    These charts are extremely useful and can be adapted for any age and specific needs of a child/family. I have used them with great results to keep my son’s tantrums under control, and now he rarely has a meltdown although he is still learning to deal with frustration. Looks like Simon is motivated too; hope things continue to go well.

  • 3.
    Marie said…

    Great idea! Love the picture with Simon completing his chart!

  • 4.
    Katrina said…

    As an adult, I need a chart on most days! Way to go Simon!

  • 5.
    Mallory said…

    Great idea! I love how your family is still that, a family, working together for the interest of the children. That’s the way it should be. Keep up the great work Simon! :)

  • 6.
    Vera said…

    Oh you go Simon. Go! :)

  • 7.
    Lisa W. said…

    Structure is good and he/we all need stucture. I truly hope this continues to be a good thing for all:) Go Simon GO!!! Thanks for sharing alittle bit and ALLOT of your everyday life!

  • 8.
    Jenny A said…

    Awesome job Simon! Love the picture of him writing on his chart!

  • 9.
    indiana said…

    Thank you for sharing your everyday life ! I don’t have kids yet but I do have pupils and I know how hard it can be to structure their time of work and leisure. Great job Ali, the chart is great and I’m sure Simon will progress.

  • 10.
    Kelley said…

    Great chart system- would so work with my boys too. Any chance you’d share the chart so we could tweak it for our own households?

    • ….
      Alanna said…

      I would love to know too!

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Thanks for asking! I edited the post to include the Excel spreadsheet as a download (link located at the end of the post).

    • ….
      Alanna said…

      You are awesome! Thanks so much Ali!!!

  • 11.
    Sue said…

    Good for Simon but also good for you Ali. To be öpen”to reflect and follow through with suggestions/reminders so that the postive if felt by all is so awesome. As Simon sees/feels that he has a good team supporting him he will flourish! Yeah for all the Edwards!

  • 12.
    Jen D said…

    I definitely need something like this. I need to incorporate my in-laws into this since the weeks I work evening stretches they are there till my husband is finish work. Thank you for sharing!

  • 13.
    {vicki} said…

    I have used a chart system for years with my son. It’s a way of earning money (10 cents per smiley face and less 10 cents per ‘X’) and it has worked really well.

    You go Simon!

  • 14.
    Sarah MacKenzie said…

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I struggle with finding a balance of limiting screen time for my 7 year old son and fitting in the mandatory things each day. I think I am going to implement something like this as I think it would work well for him

  • 15.
    Beverly said…

    GREAT post! GREAT parents! I remember talking about “non-negotiables” when our girls were little ;)

  • 16.
    Mary Rogers said…

    thanks for sharing this Ali!! I love seeing how much he has progressed over the years. Go Simon Go indeed!

  • 17.
    keianna said…

    Awesome co-parenting. Simon is very lucky.

  • 18.
    Liz Ness said…

    This is great! We have almost the same chart for D for the same currency (screen time). It’s sort of affirming to see other parents with the same concept in play, ya’ know?

    Ours is magnetic and kept in his bathroom–a place he visits often, so he’s likely to see it and be reminded of his chores. When an item is complete, he moves the magnet to the “done” column. Every night, he’s reminded by the iPhone to check his list one hour before bed-time, giving him an opportunity to catch up on what’s missing and prevent screen-time loss for the next day. Then, we check/confirm that chores are complete at bed-time and set the screen-time allowance (full, partial, none) for the next day. It’s been working very well, providing structure and driving consistency.

    =) Three cheers for less tears and happier kids!

  • 19.
    Christine said…

    My kids are grown but as a teacher we use charts like this at the school where I teach. I like the 2 separate categories. Kids really do crave routine and your plan is well thought out.
    Keep us updated.

  • 20.
    Michelle said…

    Ali, I love that you are so open and honest in your communication here, it is one of the reasons I feel like I connect to your blog. My son has ADHD so we are exploring executive function to help and our chart is not working so Simon’s chart gave me a new idea. Thanks!

  • 21.
    Amy P. said…

    Great chart and great idea! Do you mind sharing the template? Great job Simon!

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Hi Amy! I edited the post to include the Excel spreadsheet as a download (link located at the end of the post).

  • 22.
    Leanne in CA said…

    Wow, awesome! Keep up the good work Simon!!

  • 23.
    Deb J said…

    This is a great thing. So glad Simon is actually doing it and enjoying it.

  • 24.
    Ruth G said…

    Oh, yeah! Good for you and Simon and I hope that things keep working. We are a very informal family and though we’ve tried systems like this, it is very hard to keep it up. I know how important it can be for kids, especially those that need concrete, visual devices, to help them focus on what WE want them to focus on, but having to kind of make it up as we go makes it difficult since everyone in the world is so different (and we kind of tend to celebrate that at our house!) Thanks for sharing!

  • 25.
    simplypearl said…

    oh ali, thank you for sharing this. my boys are highly incentivized by technology. we’ve been using a marble jar for 1st time listening, but i LOVE the idea of the boys checking off on their list of things they must do as part of the family and extra credit. will be using that idea. thank you. and hurray for simon!!!

  • 26.
    Annette said…

    GREAT IDEA… We also strugle with our ASD kid. Love that you have incorpoated “food” too.. always a struggle for them. The whole middle school thing is a big adjustment, we have been struggling with for sometime (7th grader). We get through it. So great the Simon is so open to the chart idea. He is such a great kid.

  • 27.
    kristen said…

    I love the idea of charts, and I’ve tried tirelessly for months now to get my kids on some kind of reward schedule like that. The problem I have is that by the time we get home at the end of the day (from school & work), there’s only really a good 2 or 3 hours left before bedtime. So if they don’t complete a task and don’t earn our house’s equivilent of “screen time”, it’s a bummer but they don’t REALLY care because it’s pretty much bedtime anyways so what’s the point. I tried to keep at it, with the hope that even if they didn’t do ANY tasks for 4 days, eventually they will want the screen time and they will do what needs to be done. But I don’t like that because I don’t feel like it’s teaching them enough responsibility. So I am at a loss and feel like giving up. I feel like if I give up, at least we won’t be fighting. :(

  • 28.
    Kathy H said…

    Ali, your “Lessons Learned” on this one went right to my heart – “keep trying and don’t give up”! I’ve been where you are and can now look back and tell you that every last chart, reward, technique, etc (whether is seemed a success or failure at the time ) was oh so worth it! My special ASD guy is now creating a life, on his own, that I can hardly believe. So keep at it – Simon will amaze you!

  • 29.
    Jen Day said…

    I love this. My son was diagnosed with a ASD this past fall and usually responds well with a visual schedule at school, but I love how the rewards are outlined on yours. I am forever saying; “first we so this, then we can do that”. I am excited for my little guy to learn to read in order to use a more specific one like yours. So awesome! Go Simon!!!

    • ….
      Ali said…

      “First this, then this” is something we’ve been using for years. I remember hearing his early education teachers using that so clearly – it’s a great teaching/reinforcement tool.

    • ….
      Clare said…


      Your child doesn’t have to be able to read to implement something similar (age appropriate of course). When my youngest was little and we had a chart for the older siblings he wanted one as well so I made one completely with stickers. You may even find icons on line for the tasks, drop those in so he understands his chores and then have a sheet of smiley faces or frowns for him to place when completed or not. They love to even place the stickers on there and the rewards can also be pictures.

      My youngest loved it and felt so grown up for participating. Today, at 17 he is my most motivated and self regulated kid, I think because I started so young with him purely by accident.

      Good luck and never give up, be creative.

    • .
      Ali said…

      Wonderful, supportive suggestions!

  • 30.
    Shaela said…

    So glad it’s working for him! We established a similar chart for our older kids (ages 7 and 8) but their reward is money. They don’t care much about electronics (we’re not a big techy family) but are always asking to earn money to buy things. We didn’t feel it was right to simply give them money, and we didn’t want them to earn money for chores they need to do anyway, because doing chores is part of being a family. So we made a chart with daily chores they must do regardless, and then another chart of extra chores they can do to earn money. They can only earn money for extra chores if they’ve done all their normal chores first. Each extra chore has a monetary value attached to it, and I keep a list of money they’ve earned that day on our family calender. They only get paid once a week, because that’s how the real world works and we want them to learn that. It’s worked really well for us. :)

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Love that Shaele. Great example that this sort of system can be used for whatever the highest reward is at a given time.

  • 31.
    Conchin said…

    I have a 10-year-old son and my fight now is the same that her of you: the responsibility. It has a list of tasks that to fulfill of that it has to take charge without an adult remembers it and is … it is … I suppose that it is a question of patience. Reading his post I have felt totally identified in the task that this you realizing and I him want to send many spirits, nobody said to us the difficult thing that is to educate but to be for them and to cost a sorrow.

    A greeting,

  • 32.
    shelley said…

    Great one. Would a template be available by chance? Thanks.

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Hi Shelley! I edited the post to include the Excel spreadsheet as a download (link located at the end of the post).

    • ….
      shelley said…


  • 33.

    first of all, LOVE this!!! Do you by anychance have a pdf you’d be willing to share? Thanks!

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Hi Samantha – I don’t have a PDF but I did add a download to the post for the Excel spreadsheet which makes it able to be customized.

    • ….

      Thank you!

  • 34.
    Sheila said…

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!! My son’s OT recently recommended a responsibility/timeline chart for him as well and I was having trouble coming up with a format. This is perfect. LOVE that it includes the ‘extra credit’ for extra screen time. He’s also HIGHLY motivated by anything electronic and we’ve been struggling with how to limit it ‘fairly’.

  • 35.
    Paula said…

    I wish I’d done something like this years ago. I am now trying hard with my sweet 15 yr old who has ASD/anxiety to incorporate more responsibilities later than I should have…it is harder as they get older to change what they are used to doing into rewards, so the earlier you start, the better.

  • 36.
    J3SS1C4 said…

    My Mum did this for me and my sister’s when we were little… Only difference is we had sticker stars we used to be so proud to stick on there! I’m glad to hear it’s working well for Simon, and also that you and Chris can put your differences aside to work together on something like this… My parents divorced a few years ago, and don’t even remotely speak or say nice things about each other, which makes it awkward for me and my sister’s, even though we’re older (26, 23 and 19).

  • 37.
    Paige said…

    You. freaking. Rock. Thank you!!!

  • 38.
    Madeline St Onge said…

    Thanks Ali

    You go Simon buddy, you have come so far little man

  • 39.
    Karen S-R said…

    What great timing! We are working on a similiar concept at our house. We’re using the Family Point System from the book, Transorming the Difficult Child by Glasser. There’s also a workbook too. I love your chart and I will borrow it to incorporate the ideas we’re using. Glasser’s system doesn’t use real money–it’s “play” money with different values and you pre-determine what each reward they get is worth. Our son (almost 13 with ASD) is in his second year of middle school and it’s a bigger challenge than elementary school. It’s hard enough when they are younger and have a limited number of teachers and students they interact with but then it multiplies when they hit middle school. Throw in puberty and it’s roller coaster ride, complete with hormones! Thanks so much for sharing your chart!

  • 40.

    Thank you so much Ali. I have been hunting and thinking of some kind of reward chart from my almost 9 year old. This is pretty much perfect. Right down to cutting his own food as he so struggles with fine motor skills. I have adapted it slightly but with two small children (two siblings under 2 1/2 years) I could really do with him being a bit more independent and at the same time earning that computer time as this is his currency as well. Thanks again

  • 41.
    KSW said…

    Ali you inspire with your words.

  • 42.
    Tracy Smith said…

    My ASD son also is heavily into ‘screen time’. I was already starting to worry about summer being spent with his face in a screen. I think I will start this soon and see how it goes!

  • 43.
    Elizabeth said…

    Love this idea, and so happy it’s working well for him!

  • 44.
    Katie Nelson said…

    Thanks so much for this post Ali! We’ve had more than our fair share of charts over the years, and I’ve been thinking we might need to implement something again. We also still have screen time issues and I have to admit that it’s easy to let it go too long before addressing it. Thanks for your generosity in sharing the excel file. :)

  • 45.
    Mary Smith said…

    Great idea! We have being using an IPAD schedule app but I think I’m going to try this. My ten year old son with Aspergers is getting to a very hard stage with trying to limit his screen time. He loves video games and gets an hour to play when he gets home from school, before he starts homework. The problem I have is the handheld games like his DS. How do you monitor that. He plays a lot in the car etc. This week has been harder because we are on Spring Break in a hotel room, and off his schedule. Anyone with ideas?

    • ….
      Ali said…

      We’ve been including everything electronic in as screen time – ds, ipad, my phone, tv, computer, etc. Before this he would just move from one to the next unless someone was right on top of him and he would complain every single time. I’ve just been saying no. Period. And reminding him that he has more time for tomorrow and giving suggestions of other things – go ride your bike (the weather has been better), play legos, read, walk around in the yard, etc. I think the more they get used to not having another screen to turn to the more he seems to be finding other ways to occupy his time. This week he has been coming home and doing his homework first thing – I’ve always let him have a break and watch tv when he gets home as a way to decompress. Both yesterday and today he came home and did his homework + his 30 mins of reading first before doing anything else. I think vacation weeks (and to some extent weekends with me) are more challenging and should be more fluid and flexible.

  • 46.
    Rebecca said…

    Apologies if you’ve shared it in the comments. How does the reward work? Like 20 smilies for extra half an hour of screen time next week? I need to implement something like this but at loss at the specifics.

    • ….
      Ali said…

      It’s actually listed right on the chart – he has to do the things on the first list to even qualify to earn screen time. From the list on the bottom he can choose to do any/all to actually earn 30 mins of screen time (with a 2 hour max per day). If he reads for an additional 30 minutes he can earn 30 mins of screen time. It’s for screen time the next day (that’s how I’m approaching it – you could make it for the same day too).

      All kids are different as are situations and family norms – for some kids that might be way too much and for others it’s a fraction of what they would do without some limits in place.

  • 47.
    Carolyn said…

    Our son has to turn his mechanical kitchen timer on, BEFORE he starts his screen-time…. otherwise he loses that turn. He gets that responsibility. He also has to stop immediately it goes off, after the agreed daily time…. otherwise he loses tomorrow’s turn. Definitely a parenting struggle of our times!

  • 48.
    Jen Hart said…

    Well done for sharing, it’s hard when we have the obvious pointed out to us to not take it as criticism and then fall in a heap of guilt because we didn’t keep up at something. Every half-term (English) I embark on time with the kids after school not just playing but doing some homework etc and it never seems to embed for the whole period…
    I have been encouraging my eldest away from the screen but maybe I need to insist rather than encourage, inserts duh here :)

    Thanks, again.

  • 49.
    Mamasue123 said…

    Wow, great idea Ali. Hugs to you and your family, looks like a winning idea for all to me!

  • 50.
    Diana Waite said…

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

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