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Wearing the Watch...How to Get Your Child Comfortable with their Apple Watch

Updated: Jan 8

A visual schedule tool for your child to use that is easily customizable, can be used across all environments and is not cumbersome to carry around – yes, please! All the features of a visual schedule can be found in the Thrive app for the Apple Watch and many children will be eager to wear and use this technology. However, getting used to wearing a wristwatch can be a bit tricky. It may initially feel bulky, tight or uncomfortable until the child’s nervous system begins to habituate to the novel sensation.

Habituation is the process by which the human brain initially recognizes, but then acclimates to novel sensation so that it is not noticed anymore. For instance, you enter a crowded room and it is very loud. Overtime, the brain adjusts to the noise in the room and it does not seem as loud. As we learn more about the autistic brain, we are finding that it does not “habituate” as quickly as the neurotypical brain. So, it may take an individual with autism longer to adjust to a novel sensation.

So, what does this have to do with the Thrive app? Everything! We recognize that some individuals may have initial difficulty getting used to wearing the watch. Consider the following strategies to support your child:

Play with the watch without any pressure to put it on or wear it. Show the child how you wear it around your wrist or how a doll wears it around theirs. Have the child touch the strap and the watch face, talking about how each part feels.

If your child initiates or requests to wear the watch, great! Help them put it on. If they ask to take it off immediately, do so. They may not have been quite ready. Continue to interact with the watch on a regular basis.

If your child leaves the watch on, move on to playing with other toys or engaging in other activities. Periodically check in with them about how the watch feels.

As the child becomes more comfortable wearing the watch for longer periods of time, begin to introduce use of the app while wearing the watch. Once your child is a confident wristwatch wearer, do consider setting clear boundaries about when and where the watch can be removed so that it does not get lost.

When your child is ready, be sure to experiment with the “tightness” of the watchband. Some people prefer to wear their watch looser such that it slides up and down their wrist. For others, this is irritating! Some people prefer to have their watch fitting snug around their wrist. For others, this is too constricting! Involve your child in these discussions so that they can find their preference.

If the traditional Apple Watch band does not seem to be a good fit for your child, consider alternative watchbands. Your child may prefer a cloth band or a stretchy band. There are many different options available.

While some users will don the watch without a second thought, others may be more hesitant. Regardless, start slowly and respond to your child’s cues. Make sure to involve them in discussions and hear their preferences!

Mary Hart MacLeod, MS, OTR/L, BCP

Pediatric Occupational Therapist


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