The tennis ball chair, just one of many support aids and strategies, improves student’s alertness and sensory regulation.
Support Aid Spotlight: Tennis Ball Chair
Finding new and unique ways to engage children diagnosed with Autism, ADHD, Auditory Processing Disorder, etc. can be a challenge. But with a little creativity, research, and patience, educators and parents can work together to improve the lives of children.
An elementary Speech and Language teacher created chairs that have tennis balls sliced in half and stuck to the seat and backrest. Her invention gives student with sensory disorders an alternative texture to improve sensory processing.
They may look uncomfortable to sit in, but for a child with a sensory disorder, the tennis ball chair can give the stimulation they need.
Practical Support Strategies
Using supportive aids, like the tennis ball chair, along with some practical strategies can improve the learning environment for each student.
Learn all there is to know about sensory processing disorders. Research sites such as understood.org, spdstar.org and childmind.org. These sites each give different researched, refined and proven viewpoints and methods.
If you are more of a people person than an online researcher, consider talking with local professionals outside of your school setting such as occupational therapists trained in sensory processing. Discussing options with school psychologists, licensed social workers, speech and language pathologists and occupational therapists can also be very helpful.
Create sensory breaks.
Taking short breaks that let students move will help increase their focus. During transition time, incorporate some ideas that require large motor skills, like doing five jumping jacks before getting in line or marching like silent soldiers to the next class.
Erasing the board, stacking chairs, and squeezing stress balls are all options that can be individualized and fun for children. These simple ideas can make a big difference in student’s ability to learn.
Parents, educators, caregivers, and support teams must all be willing to share in the child’s growth and struggles. Building bridges requires advocating for the child’s best interest and supporting one another.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, parents and teachers who build bridges increase a student’s success rate. Parent Power: Build the Bridge to Success is just one of many books that provides key strategies to help parents and teachers connect.
Often something as simple as having a schedule for the day posted on the wall can help. Create a simple schedule that can be posted daily. This is an easy but effective tool that can help the child, parent, and educator work together. PBIS World, Child-Autism-Parent Café, and Autism Classroom Resources provide samples that can be implemented immediately.
Understanding Sensory Disorders
As we experience things through our senses (sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing), our brain takes in this information and then reacts to that information. For example, when we pick up a ball, our skin sends information to our brain about the shape, size, and texture of the ball.
Our brain should recognize that the item in our hand is a ball and then tell our muscles to move the bones in our hand to grab the ball. Remember, while your senses are telling your brain all these things, your body is still doing other things like moving blood through it, breathing, and hearing things in the world around you and smelling things in the air.
For children with sensory disorders, it is like all these things coming at the brain causes a major traffic jam. This causes a child who has a sensory disorder to struggle with motor skills and daily duties. These struggles can lead to other issues like doing poorly in school, depression, and behavioral problems like meltdowns.
Educators and parents must remember to look at each student as a unique individual with unique needs and unique learning styles. By agreeing to use support aids and strategies, communication increases and sensory regulation begins to improve. To learn other ways to be effective, take a look at the resources in the parent support section of this site.