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Ilana Danneman
BY Ilana Danneman

Six Alternative Seating Options in the Classroom for a Child with Special Needs

When most of us think of a classroom, we envision children sitting at their desks and a teacher at the front of the room explaining a concept or teaching a lesson. If you’re my age, you may even have visions of that little schoolhouse from Little House on the Prairie. Although that vision still holds true in many classrooms (not so the schoolhouse, but the sitting part), teaching is evolving to meet differences in learning styles. The goal after all is the learning.

It is not foreign anymore to see a teacher on the floor with her students or students up and about around the classroom while engaged in learning. Whereas traditional classrooms insisted on kids sitting still, newer methods allow children to move in order to learn.

Let’s take a look at some alternative solutions to the traditional seat. These chairs can engage your kids but keep order in the classroom as well. If you’re a parent, you may consider suggesting these solutions or help brainstorm some solutions for your own school or classroom.

1. Seats That Move

Moving Seats

You can grab an exercise ball, ball chair or wiggle cushion. Any of these will allow kids to sit on a less stable surface right at their desk. You can get a cushion that leans forward for a more active learning position or one with gel inside for a different feel. You can use a ball chair filled up with air or one with slightly less air for more of a hug. Wiggle cushions and ball chairs allow kids to move while they learn without disrupting the class.

2. Floor Time

Bean Bag Chair

Getting down on the floor can be productive during sessions that require group work, creativity or problem solving. The floor actually grounds the muscles creating a calming effect. Beanbag chairs, pillows or floor spots are great to use in this regard.

3. Stand to Learn

Spiky Tactile Cushion

Some kids just can’t sit. Try out a podium, standing desk or table at the back of the classroom for your standers. You can also put a wiggle cushion or balance board under their feet while standing to engage their bodies with their brains.

4. Bike and Read

Along that thought, you might want to solicit used exercise bikes for your “Pedal to Read” program. Kids love to bike and read. You can get actual exercise bikes or pedlars that sit on the floor right near their feet.

5. Fidgets that Help

Either foot or hand fidgets can help your kids sit for longer. Putty, squishy balls and small fidgets work for the hands. Try tying resistance bands around the legs of the chairs for an easy foot fidget. Fidgets can be made available in the classroom or upon a polite request from the student.

6. Bungee Chairs

Bungee Chair

Still want a chair? Try some alternative chairs in your classroom. You don’t need to outfit the entire classroom. Just one or two different chairs can do the trick. Bungee chairs are great for their bounce as are chairs that spin, such as stools.

Wrapping it up

Finding the right chairs is very important for the classroom but remember to give your kids ample time to move outside (recess, PE, etc.). This will significantly impact their ability to sit when you actually need them too. And finally try using a reward system as well that encourages good posture and classroom manners.

Share your classroom management tips in comments below.

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Ilana Danneman

Written on November 3, 2014 by:

Ilana Danneman is a product developer for Fun And Function. She has worked with therapists, teachers and parents of special needs children for 20 years and has been a physical therapist herself since 1986 with experience in acute care, spinal cord injury (Shepherd Center), outpatient rehab and pediatrics. Ilana has a passion for writing and teaching kids (and adults) how to move! She can be reached at [email protected]

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