Keeping your child attentive at school or at home while studying can be difficult at times for both parents and teachers. Doing so when your kid has special needs, some learning or development disability, or sensory processing disorder, can be even more challenging. Many of these children have a constant need for movement or reduced muscle tone that prevents them to engage in learning.
Children spend a significant amount of time sitting at school or home sitting in chairs that restrict free movements. In most traditional classrooms or study rooms seatings are stationary and stiff.
Sitting still for extended periods in such chairs can be quite stressful for children. Such furniture not only restricts your child’s movements but also hampers their concentration due to continuous stress.
Moving around comfortably is important for developing concentration, especially if the child has learning disabilities like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, sensory processing disorder and so on.
What Is a Sensory Chair?
The human body is made for constant movement. Thus, it’s important to use seating furniture that involves our core muscles as it not only fosters muscle stimulation but also spinal alignment. And here comes the importance of sensory chairs.
A sensory chair, or wiggle seat, is seating equipment that promotes active sitting in children. Specially designed for kids who constantly fidget in the classroom, this seating option improves their posture while enhancing their balance and concentration.
Children who constantly fidget on their seats are known as ‘sensory seekers’. In most cases, these children have some learning, sensory or developmental disorders like autism and sensory processing disorder.
As these children often look for vestibular sensory input, they keep on moving restlessly. Vestibular sensory input plays an important role in maintaining balance and understanding movement sense.
Apart from this, this sensory input helps us to stay focused and engaged in a task. Children with learning or developmental disability need more vestibular input to stay alert and attentive. Thus, occupational therapists prescribe sensory chairs to these children to improve their concentration levels.
How Do I Know If My Child Needs A Sensory Chair?
Children who require additional movement due to their proprioceptive or vestibular sense may need a sensory chair.
For children whose proprioceptive sense stimulates less information, the movement might help them to build body awareness.
Children seeking vestibular sensory input are mostly restless and struggle to stay alert or focused.
Some of the symptoms that can help you to identify whether or not your child needs alternative seating are as follows:
- The kid might move back and forth constantly in a seating position
- The child might continuously move about in their seating furniture
- The child might slump at their desk
- The kid might be always restless in the class
- They might struggle to concentrate on their classwork
- They might often get up to approach their teachers
What Is the Aim of a Sensory Chair?
All sensory chairs, whether it’s a fidget cushion, wobble stool or a bean bag aims to help children to build their attention and focus. According to pediatricians and occupational therapists, these chairs are designed for children who often struggle to sit quietly or in a resting position to help keep themselves alert, focused and more regulated.
Sensory seatings provide children with the extra movement that they seek while sitting for a longer span of time. Here, the idea is to provide the child with the right amount of sensory input that not only decreases their unnecessary, unsafe and distracting movements but also keep them attentive to the tasks they are performing.
Seating for long periods of time is not healthy and might lead to decreased muscle tone, back soreness, fatigue and lack of concentration. To correct these problems and aid children with special needs with external sensory support, provide them with active seating. Here are some of the benefits that your child can enjoy using sensory chairs.
Improve Posture and Muscle Tone
Sensory chairs help your child to make frequent postural adjustments that not only strengthen their core abdominal but also trunk muscles. These chairs help to keep students’ backs straight with their shoulders back. Increasing muscles tone and strength is important as it promotes control over writing and other classroom tools.
Improve Sensory Input
Some children constantly fidget while sitting. Their muscles crave activity for sitting still and focusing on tasks. As sensory chairs let children move and adjust themselves in a non-disruptive way, they get the right stimulus they are seeking for. Thus, sitting in such chairs, children can burn off excess energy and become more attentive in class.
Sensory chairs promote active sitting in children that help them to remain in motion rather than staying in a rigid posture. As these chairs promote natural movement of the body, it is a fidget-friendly option for your child that can improve their level of concentration to a certain extent. Thus, if your child is super-energetic or has any learning disorder that hampers their concentration, sensory seating can help them to focus on the task at hand.
Increase Blood Flow
From the fact that sensory chairs help kids to stay active while sitting through small body movements, the blood flow increases. This also improves the flow of oxygen to the brain that not only improves mental alertness but also boosts their overall productivity. Unlike conventional classroom seats, sensory chairs boost your child’s overall metabolism and provide health benefits that last a lifetime.
Types of Sensory Chairs
There are different types of sensory chairs or active seatings available in the market. Each provides a bit of constant movement when they are sat on. In comparison to conventional chairs, these seating options give your child safer and less distracting movement opportunities.
A wobble chair is a type of active seating that gets its name from the motion an individual gets when sitting on it. The stool comes with a rounded base that allows your child to wobble back and forth and side to side.
It gives the child the exact same feeling when sitting on an exercise ball. This provides your child with the exact stimulus they are looking for.
Wobble chair makes great furniture for promoting active sitting. The heights of these stools can be adjusted with ease. The constant rocking movement helps to keep your child engaged in learning.
Gym ball or balance ball is yet another sensory chair type that can be used as an alternative to conventional seating. Perfect for children with learning or developmental disabilities, these balls allow your child to bounce up and down on the balance ball, while remaining in one spot.
Apart from providing your child with the right amount of stimulus, such sitting options strengthen their core muscles. As sitting on a gym ball lets your child perform a series of micromovements, it can tone their abdominal and lumbar muscles while improving their spine stabilization.
Fun to sit on, balance balls play an important role in helping your little one obtain the perfect posture.
It is important to note for some children with low muscle tone, gym balls are not a suitable option as the child may have trouble maintaining an upright posture and can impact their ability to concentrate in class.
Wobble cushions are small and round inflatable cushions designed to give the user the wobble effect. As the cushions are filled with air, they can easily be moved with the user simply leaning on it.
Commonly used discosit cushions or Move N Sit cushions have small bumps on one side of the cushion, assisting children who need extra sensory input via tactile stimulation.
Various studies have shown that wobble cushions are effective in increasing concentration and attention span in students. Nervous or hyperactive children were observed to focus better by using these cushion types.
Wobble cushions are best used when placed on chairs, couches, and table to provide a variety of seating options that can be used at home, school or in the office.
This active sitting type provides proprioceptive and tactile sensory input to children with sensory processing disorders, autism and other learning disabilities. As these cushions are small and take up very little space, they can be used both at home and school.
From school-age onwards, children often sit at home doing their assignments, projects and homework. This is in addition to sitting all day at school. Today, kids are sitting far too much.
Thus, to promote dynamic or active sitting in children, provide them with a good swivel chair. These chairs let your child move freely while keeping their back straight.
Apart from supporting active sitting, these chairs adapt to your child’s changing requirements. As the height of these chairs can be adjusted, you can manage the height of the chair according to your child’s growth.
Chair Bands On Chairs
Perfect for school-aged children, these chair bands are the perfect solution for those who fidget a lot.
Easy to install, these bands help to fidget children with self-regulation. Just stretch these bands and tie them over the front two legs of a chair. You can also use exercise bands!
These bands are designed to support active sitting in children. These chair bands let your child move freely while improving their focus and attention span. Using these bands, children with learning or sensory disabilities like autism, ADHD or SPD can improve their learning experiences in classrooms.
Another sensory chair that can provide support to your child’s core muscles is a bean bag. Its allows it to moulds according to your child’s body. There are also more structured chair-like bean bags that provide a more ergonomic design and thus, prevent soreness and pain.
Bean bags provide support to your child’s back, shoulder, hips and head and encourage them to build a good posture. It can also help calm children as it provides deep pressure.
This chair type is highly beneficial for kids with a sensory processing disorder. It provides the right proprioceptive input they need and hence, allows them to experience their own body positions along with pressures in joints and muscles.
The downside of bean bags is that it is hard to use next to a desk and therefore might not be suitable for table top work like handwriting. It is a great tool for calm tasks like reading or listening to the teacher.
Considerations when Choosing Sensory Seating
When choosing alternative seating for your child, there are a few considerations that you need to think about first.
Think about why your child needs alternative seating.
What is the reason for the sensory seating? Is it for a sensory stimulation need? Do they move around a lot?
What is the outcome we aim for? Is it for the child to burn off extra energy? Or is the tool aimed to have a calming effect.
Ensure it fits into their setting, whether in the home or classroom setting.
Consider the school environment to decide the best fit. If the classroom lacks space or the child often moves around, provide them with a cushion but not a chair or stool.
Before encouraging your child to sit on those chairs or cushions, check manufacturer instructions and guide your child on how to use that chair.
Last but not the least, check if your child prefers active sitting over traditional chairs. If they are comfortable with regular chairs, do not force them for using any alternative seats.
Some children do not like to appear different from their peers and prefer traditional chairs. In saying this, if your child has significant sensory difficulties or poor core strength, and is still losing focus while seated on traditional chairs, it is important to talk through why we use sensory seating. They may compromise and sit on a sensory cushion instead.
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