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 some movement. One way kids can move while focusing is to sit on items like a therapy ball, Disc o Sit or Move N Sit 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 types of items 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. One can purchase ball chairs, but this is a more expensive option.
Both the Disc O Sit or Disc o Sit Jr. have research behind them and have been used in classes to effectively help students focus. These discs can be placed on a students 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. These have a smooth side and a bumpy side with inch round knobs that provide slight sensory input. 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.
Move n Sit Wedge or Move n Sit Jr. 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 Disc o Sit you can adjust the amount of air in the cushion by removing the plug and blowing into it. This item also has a knobby side and a smooth side providing more or less sensory input. There are also lower cost versions of sitting wedges as well.
It should also be noted that both the Move n Sit and Disc o Sit items are manufactured in Italy and do not contain any phthalates.