There are now several studies that have shown students, including those with ADHD and other special needs, focus better in the classroom when they are allowed to wiggle this is called "active seating". One way kids can move while focusing is to sit on items like a therapy ball, seating disc or wedge. We are often asked by teachers and parents what is the difference and what would work best for our child.
All three of these active seating options should help students to focus, because they operate in similar ways. When a child sits on a therapy ball, wedge, or cushion they are sitting on a slightly unstable surface.
The slight instability of the surface causes the child to continuously make minor adjustments with their core muscles to stay balanced and seated on the object. The core muscles of our bodies, the muscles that run up and down the front of our bodies and the mid and lower back help with stability and are rather large. Thus the constant small movements of the core muscles allow the child to, in a sense fidget without appearing to move.
Several studies have shown the effectiveness of therapy balls in increasing attention and focus with students. You can read more about those studies here.
As we have talked to teachers here has been our feedback:
The positives first: a therapy ball provides more opportunities for movement with the leg muscles as well as the core muscles and has been helpful for very fidgety kids.
However, the downside is some kids have used the balls to gain attention by falling off the balls, rolling the balls and thus distracting the class.
If you do decide to use a therapy ball make sure it is an “anti-burst” ball as some cheaper therapy balls will in effect pop and almost immediately drop your student on the ground. Another option is to purchase ball chairs.
Several styles of seating discs have research behind them and have been used in classes to effectively help students focus. These discs can be placed on a student's chair so that they create the instability of a ball, but can’t roll away.
You will need to experiment with the amount of air you add to the cushion – more air can create more instability, but the student may not like it. Disc o Sits are highly sturdy and easy to inflate/deflate with a plug that you just pull out and blow into. There are also lower cost versions of these.
Seating wedges also provide instability that causes the core muscles to move. However, these items also have the added benefit of encouraging better posture.
For students with poor postural control, or those who tend to slouch, this item will tilt their pelvis forward encouraging straighter spine alignment. Like the seating discs, you can adjust the amount of air in the wedges to adjust the instability.
We hope this answers your questions about wiggle seats. If you have more questions feel free to talk to our customer service team at 877-249-2393 we want to help you find the best product for your students!
By Bonnie Arnwine This week I had the pleasure of meeting with a local children’s museum that is exploring creative ways to open up access for children on the autism spectrum. When I shared my adventure with my friend she sent me the following reply. I’m sharing it with you because it’s too good to keep [...]
Do you know a sensory sensitive child who is trying to understand themselves or starting Occupational Therapy? If so, Sensitive Sam is the book for you! This helpful book is based on my experience working with my son who has experienced both challenges and successes when it comes to Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). [...]
Exercise Improves Behavior and Academic Performance for Students with Autism and Behavioral Challenges
Research continues to show that exercise may be a key component to a successful academic program for students with autism and behavioral disorders. Participating in daily aerobic exercise will not only help your students physically, but can improve their academic performance as well.A recent study found that kids who participated in a daily “cyber cycling” [...]
Today, more than ever, educators are faced with teaching core subjects for longer periods to prepare the class to master state standards. This requires the students to sit at their desks for long periods, and they may lose focus. Many students may have challenges with sustained sitting and have a sensory need for [...]
Auditory processing is a term used to describe what happens when your brain recognizes and interprets the sounds around you. Humans hear when energy that we recognize as sound travels through the ear and is changed into electrical information that can be interpreted by the brain. The “disorder” part of auditory processing disorder means that [...]
One of the wonderful parts of the holidays is an opportunity for family members to come together and visit. For family members with autism, this can be an enjoyable time, but also very stressful. If you will be having a family member on the autism spectrum visiting soon, there are a few practical things you [...]
As an Occupational Therapist I am very aware of the common misconception on the internet and elsewhere regarding what the appropriate weight is for a weighted blanket. Most people recommend 10% of a person's body weight but research and experience suggests closer to 20%. For a very long time there was no research done on weighted [...]
Kids chewing on their clothes, hair or fingers is a common issue that parents and teachers have seen in students with autism, ADHD and sensory issues. There can be several reasons why a kid is chewing. If you are a concerned parent make sure to talk to your child's doctor to rule out any possible [...]
By: Beth Aune, OTR/L, Beth Burt & Peter GennaroToday, more than ever, educators are faced with teaching core subjects for longer periods to prepare the class to master state standards. This requires the students to sit at their desks for long periods, and they may lose focus. Many students may have challenges with sustained sitting [...]
National Autism Resources Blog
- Active Seating: Therapy Ball, Seating Disc, or Wedge Which One Should You Use?
- Autism Challenge: Isolation from the Community
- Sensitive Sam: a Book for Kids who are Sensory Sensitive
- Exercise Improves Behavior and Academic Performance for Students with Autism and Behavioral Challenges
- Behavior Solutions for Students Who Won’t Keep Seated