Within the past few years, many teachers began to convert the traditional classroom of desks and chairs to classrooms that have a variety of seating and table options.

Flexible seating, as the term has been coined, is where alternative seating options are provided to students.

Pediatric occupational therapists in schools, however, have been using this flexible seating as an intervention tool for many years to aid in improving attention for children with autism and ADHD who have difficulty sitting still and paying attention. Occupational therapists use different types of seating options to help meet the sensory input and movement needs of children with these types of diagnoses to improve learning by being able to wiggle and move at the same time.

As the prevalence of attention deficit disorders rise, teachers have taken notice to these effective strategies and recognize the need and the benefits of flexible seating for all students in the classroom.

The premise behind flexible seating is providing choices for the child to sit or even stand when learning. Providing movement and sensory input while being engaged in classroom tasks help increase the child's focus. Flexible seating options allow a child to wiggle, wobble, rock, bounce, or stand while at their desk. Some options include rocker chairs; wiggle cushions filled with air, gel, or beads; wobble or one-legged stools; rolling chairs; pillows; exercise balls; and standing desks.

There are many benefits of flexible seating besides improving attention. It also provides physical movement that aids in increasing blood flow to the body and brain. It also provides choices and allows children to learn which alternative learning tools work most effective for them. Children get very excited about flexible seating and in turn tend to be more engaged in learning.

If you are a teacher and would like to try flexible seating, or even a parent that would like to try using flexible seating during homework, here are some tips to keep in mind.

  • Implement a flexible seating contract — have each child sign a pledge to ensure safe and appropriate use of flexible seating. Flexible seating is fun, but is also a privilege.
  • Always have regular seating options. Some students cannot handle flexible seating, and it does not work for every student.
  • Look at what you have currently in the classroom or in the home before making  purchases. Some options include removing legs off of desks or lowering/raising desks and chairs.
  • Monitor wiggling and wobbling if any child becomes over stimulated.
  • Always be on the lookout. Look around at second hand stores and ask family and friends if anyone is giving away tables or chairs. Always think of how you can adapt or change any type of seating.
  • Give children ownership to brainstorm and come up with various ways to use current and new seating options.
  • Have the child rate their seating preferences.
  • Pick one sitting option to add at a time, and provide additional seating options gradually.
  • Consult with an occupational therapist. They are always adapting as part of the job, and they may be able to help you brainstorm some fun and inexpensive creative ways to implement flexible seating.

Kimberly Bradley, a pediatric occupational therapist, writes our “Wiggle Room” column. She owns Kim4Kids in Metairie and can be reached at 504.517.5437; kim4kidsnola.com.


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