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Ask An Autism Mom EP. 56

Flexible Seating For Classroom

Flexible seating is only as good as the teacher can implement it.

It can be used with normal students and those who are considered neuro-typical. It can be used with students that have autism. It can be used with students that just bounce their legs. I bounce, I move in my classroom. My students know me for pacing the room. I don't stop moving, but I can't expect that my students are not going to stop moving either if I can't stand still.

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Episode Highlights:

Today we're talking with Victoria Erwin. She has been in the field of education for nearly 12 years and has taught anywhere from sixth to 12th grade in varying years throughout the years. She has noticed arise with the different attention issues and cognitive issues within the classroom. This has sparked an interest in trying to figure out how to help these students through flexible seating.

Transcript:

Jenn Eggert: Hi everyone and welcome back to ask an autism mom live. I'm Jenn Eggert from lakikid.com and you can join me every Monday, live at 1:00 PM Easter to learn tips, share your insights and meet other parents. Tonight we are doing an extra special show. Victoria is the mom of two, one of which has special needs and she has also a teacher. So she's going to be discussing ways that teachers can help their students and as well as ways that parents can look at ideas for things that may help their children in the classroom, especially with flexible seating.

Jenn Eggert: Now we want to welcome those of you watching live on Facebook or listening to our podcast or watching us on youtube. If you want to get alerts to ask questions live or watch us live, type "5" in the comments below to subscribe. Type the number five in the comment section to subscribe. If you're just joining us, you're listening to ask an Autism mom show, and I'm sitting down with Victoria who is a mom of two special needs, mom of one and a school teacher. We are going to discuss all things flexible seating and she would love to share her experience with us. We can't wait to dig into this topic with you today, but first we want to give a huge shout out to our sponsor. Of course, you know our sponsors, lakikid.com and this month, the month of April, we have all new t-shirts, tank tops.

Jenn Eggert: We're doing all kinds of new clothing. Please check our website lakikid.com we have new items coming, awareness items coming on our website regularly, so please keep an eye on it. There are so many neat things that you're going to love. Now I want to welcome all of you to today's show. Give me a moment. We have Ashley. Hi Tanya. Jason's listening as he drives home from work, we have Janina who's excited because her son has a problem saying common his seat. He calls out and saying, making weird noises while Jessica, I hope we can help you. Amber. Hi Jessica. Hi Rafa. Mary Ellen. Thanks Mary Ellen. I was able to escape to the beach for four days this weekend. So I am feeling refreshed and wonderful.Raquel is a home school mom, so what we're call Raquel. Hopefully we are able to give you some ideas today on how to change things that to help your son. Thank you for sharing. Janina remember every like share tag really means a lot to us. We are a small business and this is what builds our business. This is what we sthrive on. You guys sharing with your friends, you guys sharing any of our blogs, any of our posts, our videos, joining our group, joining our family and our community.

Jenn Eggert: Welcome everyone.

Jenn Eggert: Actually this is a first time that someone has got to watch live. I am so excited that this is your first time. I hope you find it a wonderful show. I'm excited. I have been wanting to talk to a teacher for a long time. So as I said, I'm talking with Victoria Erwin she has been in the field of education for nearly 12 years and has taught anywhere from sixth to 12th grade in varying years throughout the years. She has noticed arise with the different attention issues and cognitive issues within the classroom. This has sparked an interest in trying to figure out how to help these students, especially when they are unaware of how to help themselves. I am also the mother of two little boys. My oldest son who is five, was diagnosed with autism when he was two who's considered minimal nonverbal, which has given me an entirely different perspective. So welcome Victoria. Hi everyone. So excited. let's dive right in. Why do you use flexible seating in your classroom

Victoria: Well, I've seen other teachers use it in varying degrees of success, but I decided I wanted to start using it, especially with the rise of ADHD students in my classroom because that propensity to move for them is something they're not even aware of. So the constant reminder, they're getting in trouble for something that's just innate, that they can't actually stop. this is actually the first time that I've been able to use it in different degrees in my classroom, which has been very interesting. And I teach seventh grade English, so I'm able to use it with the middle level kids, so not the little tiny kids that just like bouncing on a seat because it's there not but the teenagers that are wholly responsible.

Jenn Eggert: And we know I have a teenager, I understand teenagers now. It's flexible seating. Good for all students and all student groups.

Victoria: Flexible seating is only as good as the teacher can implement it. It can be used with normal students that are considered neuro-typical. It can be used with students that have autism and he does sensory element to that too. It can be used with students that just bounce their legs. I bounce, I move in my classroom. My students know me for pacing the room. I don't stop moving, but I can't expect that my students are not going to stop moving either if I can't stand still.

Jenn Eggert: And that's something parents that I want you to remember. If you move a lot, I move constantly when I talk on the phone, I pace up and down my house. If you move a lot, why are we expecting our children to do something we can't not do

Jenn Eggert: If we have to move, why do we expect our kids to sit still and be little robots all day

Victoria: Well, and to be fair, there is a way to get all of our students too, and I'm going to put this in quotes to sits.And actually be attentive without having to sit still. I have some students that actually hide a fidget in their pocket. I have some students that draw because that's the only way that they can engage with me without verbally engaging with everyone else.


Jenn Eggert: Now, I know everything especially in school, you're going to see different behaviors. How do you address the behaviors with seating

Jenn Eggert: Well, other than the constant puzzle piece that is naturally your classroom to start with, you have to consider the personalities. You strongly have to consider the personalities of students that may not be neuro typical for a variety of reasons because placing them near certain students is not going to be as advantageous. But you also have to consider that if you have a student that is incredibly hyperactive, you probably don't want to put them on a bouncy ball, but you can put them on a seat. The wiggle seats. The wiggle seat that's small enough that they can have that movement without distracting everyone else around them.

Jenn Eggert: And I know you gave me four different ways of using the fidget bands that you have implemented that I didn't even think of or nor did Jason.

Victoria: Well, and I was going to say, and the fidget bands are another thing. I bounce my legs when I sit I have a huge variety of students that pick up my desks with their legs because they want that movement or lean their chairs back. And I've had the idea of using the fidget bands in about four different ways. One is the normal way where you take the fidget band, which is a rubber band that you can put around legs and you can put it around the front legs of your desk. If you have the desks that are detachable from the chairs and students can put their feet on it and bounce their feet and not be nearly as noticeable to everyone else. You can also take that fidget bands and put it on the front legs of their chair and they can do one of two things. They can either rest their legs on that if they're ones that want to have their legs higher or they can tuck their feet underneath it and they can actually use that pull resistance if they have to move. But they have to try to also sit still at the same time. It also will

Victoria: release in a way. they teach you as a speaker. If you're really nervous, you squeeze your hands as tight as you can humanly squeeze them for five seconds and then let go because that movement right there, actually, we'll release the stress and let you actually do that. Well that's another way for students to do it. The last way that I can currently think of, I know there was four, but I can think of three was to put the band actually higher to where students can put their size underneath it and you'd have to put it on the legs closest as a student and they can bounce their legs up and down, get that movement of feeling like they're lifting the desk without actually moving the desk. And then they get the pressure that's returning back down on them, which would be equivalent to a small version of trying to use a weighted blankets but in a specific area. So if you have a kid that doesn't want to stand out but needs that resistive force pack on them, that'd be a way to do that.

Jenn Eggert: Now we're going to talk about different ways to use our lakikid products and flexible seating. I know you just talked about the fidget bands, but you were telling me you actually use the wiggle seat in a way that I never thought of.

Victoria: Well what I do at the wiggle seat is actually something I do with my own son because it's a little awkward to do it to student, which is due to the fact that it's got all those bumps on it. You can actually, if it's a sensory that your child desires, you can actually take that wiggle seat and actually roll it on your child's back and add that pressure. And for some reason it's almost like the hug but it's got the different points. So for some students out would work. You also have the kids that, and I have a lot of kids for some reason that like to take their shoes off. Well they could also do that themselves if they want like that force of the bottom of their feet and you're willing to wash it a lot.

Jenn Eggert: Must say they are easily, they are easy for you to clean, are they not?

Victoria: They are very easy to clean. And the latex of them is thick enough that you could even use the bleach cleaners was out worrying that it's just going a weak in the material. And that's actually what I use.

Jenn Eggert: And I want to say that there's also other ways. You could use obviously Victoria teachers, older children, you can use them in younger children. When you're doing carpet squares, they can sit on the wiggle seat instead of the carpet square

Jenn Eggert: You can use the wiggle seat as a carpet square for younger children. Play some on the floor and have them sit on the floor on them. Riley likes to lay on her belly on it. You can stand on it and practice balance.The ball chairs you can use instead of regular chairs I've seen Riley's teacher actually has a circular desk where she does her testing, she sits behind it. The students sit in front. There's three or four that sit around the table on little stools.

Jenn Eggert: So flexible seating is not just specific products, it's anything that changes the normal desk chair ratio.

Victoria: Well, and going back to what you said about the ball chair, you could even use the ball chair and my son.

Victoria: Otherwise I'm going to start yelling and then my son's going to start yelling at me.

Victoria: Well, what I was gonna say is you were mentioning about the ball is you can also turn that ball chair on the side so you don't have the little stumps. I would naturally sit on and actually roll a child on it, especially the younger children that they really liked that sensation and that's another way to do that.


Jenn Eggert: Now I know as a teacher you pay for a lot of your own supplies for your classroom because school budgets are limited. Is flexible seating worth the financial expense you put into it

Victoria: It is worth the financial. As long as you are very careful about what you practice, whatever you purchase needs to have more than one purpose. It can't just be, okay, this is going to only sit here and ever just be used for this because at that point you're going to spend a lot of money on a lot of things and your room's going to become overcrowded really quickly. It is really nice to have a product that I can take from a student's sitting on it to a student using it to add that pressure to a student. Basically sitting on it as they read at their desk. All those different varieties is what you need to look for to make it worth it and the quality of the material. You don't want to buy something that's going to pop within the school year if you can avoid it

Jenn Eggert: Right now. Can you give us some ideas as to how different ways of flexible seating and how to use them we know that it's not just using specific products. You can use other things as well.

Victoria: Well, and like you just said, flexible seating is just that it is being flexible without having joy's purchase something. You can place students on the floor with clipboards. You can place students in the back of the room with pillows. You can take that band and if you have the ability, just use that band to help them stretch their legs during different times where you have that chance to have a little bit more freedom. You can essentially do almost anything with flexible seating. And the biggest goal for flexible seating is you want to give those students that require the movements, the chance to move in order to take those times that need to be quiet and optimize them essentially.

Jenn Eggert: Right. So like she said, folks, the more options you have that are usable and multiple ways, especially if you're on a budget like a teacher, like a homeschool mom. I know we have some homeschool moms here. You want the product to be able to be used as much as you can. Now I know when you and I were first talking, you told me that flexible seating needs rules. Can you explain that a little bit.

Victoria: Well, obviously like anything with students, there's rules that need to be created, but the more that you're doing something nontraditional, the more you need to be prepared that the students seem to understand what to expect. If you're doing flexible seating, do you expect that they're going to stay in one location all the time or can they take their seats and move around the classroom or are there different time periods that they can do either. What's one of the rules in my classroom because I change classes is if you have something like that more so the wiggle seats than anything else, it needs to come back to me. And you also need to ask for it. That way it doesn't get followed over cause it's something new and different in the classroom and it inevitably, but I want to do it is the thing you're going to hear. you need to make sure that your students that might be overly active and even possibly destructive even off, even if not purposely, are not going to a place on an item that they can just break. You need to make sure that they understand that this is a privilege, not an expectation. And with their usage, using it properly means we can use it more often. The times we cannot use it properly. We need to prove that we can earn that back in a correct way.

Jenn Eggert: Now. I know every class is structured different. It's laid out different, but can you give us some ideas of where you would use flexible seating and more kind of flexible seating

Victoria: Well, one easy way, and this can go elementary all the way to high school. Realistically speaking is reading time. I'm an English teacher. We almost always have different times where reading be it a classroom novel or individual. If you're reading, they don't have to be in their seat.

Victoria: they can be on the floor as long as it's responsible. They can be in different corners of the room that you might've specifically created in order to have that environment. when you have that are hyperactive or when you have students that need that stemming or that sensory of some kind, you want to make sure they have something that they can do that with quietly. When you're doing activities like worksheets where everyone has to be focused because if you're not focused, if you have a student that's randomly stemming without a direction to be able to do it in,

Victoria: it's going to become a distraction and it won't help that student or anyone else in the classroom. And I think that's the biggest thing is you need to understand your students and what their specific needs are in that classroom and fill those needs. If you have students that need that movement, you're going to have more movement, you're going to have more flexibility. You also might end up with classes that you can't have that flexibility because they're very rigid. They need to have, this is how we do it, so you're flexible seating might be, okay, student a, here's your seat, let's just sit down in our seats, but you need the movement. Here you go. Other classes, that might be okay guys, let's just form a circle on the floor

Jenn Eggert: Now, How does lakikid flexible seating products help you as a teacher?

Victoria: If you help the students, you help yourself. It is a lot easier to be proactive than reactive. When I brought the flexible seating into the classroom, I was able to curb some of the tendencies that had been fighting all year, which is the constant movement and for some of the students at even helps control the blurting out because they have somewhere to aim that energy. It was actually really interesting to get to see how some of the students chose to use, especially the bands because they were there when they were, the way that I found out how to use some of the other ways because they would shift them, which you might find your student or your child might show you a different way to use it that you would have never found out, but it works for them.

Victoria: The one thing I will say is be careful because even if it works at home, because you mentioned homeschool even because even if it works at home with you, does not always guarantee that it will work in a classroom environment of 25 plus children.

Jenn Eggert: So by using flexible seating as a teacher, you're not only helping yourself, you're helping your students, so you're in a win situation. Now I am going to quickly go through some of the questions we had. I know we had a couple, let me look real quick. there was one I'm trying to see cause it was important to me to answer. actually asks if we suggest for fidget bands or wiggle seats to our children's teachers, should we bring them in ourselves or should the school or teacher supply them?

Victoria:Well I'm going to say this part. As a teacher, I can't supply the myself. I can't supply for every single students. But if you know that it is a product that helps your child frequently, if it's a bigger school, they have the ability to get small products. Now if you are specific, it has to be absolutely this product and this brand, it's probably going to be easier to purchase it yourself. I've brought material and for my son to his classroom because it works specifically for him, but almost any school is going to be willing. Fidget bands are not that much.

Jenn Eggert: And I suggest that and I bet Victoria agreed that this is something that should be brought up during the IEP process. When we're talking about supports in place for our child, talk about the different supports you want. If you want fidget bands, wiggle seats, bring them to the IEP meeting with you. You never know. You might have a teacher who doesn't know what they are.

Victoria: Well, and then on top of that, you might have a school district that has it already, but not at your current school. You might have a teacher that doesn't understand, okay, this is what a weighted blanket is. This is what a lap pad is, this is what we need to use, and this is how it works at home. But if you don't bring it up at that meeting, if it's not, I hate to say this, but it's true. If it's not in your paperwork, it is not a requirement for your child when they go into a regular classroom. True.

Jenn Eggert: So yes, I've seen a couple parents suggesting make sure that you put it in the IEP if you want anything educationally wise, and I know Victoria is going to agree, you always want to make sure all educational issues are addressed in that IEP. That way the teacher knows because Victoria coming in to a brand new classroom in September, you don't know your children, you don't know their needs. You have to go by this IEP that tells you

Victoria: Well and that IEP,I think of it almost like a welcome letter for a child every year. It's both going to tell us what your can do, but it's also going to give me as a teacher an idea of okay, I'm going to hit this unit. They may have difficulties now I know I need to talk to the parents to get their assistance. I they have attention issues. I'm running a unit that they will have to have accommodations for and then I know that I have to talk to the sped teacher. If you don't put that in the IEP, I'm going to find out as we have a problem instead of before.

Jenn Eggert: Yeah, we have Crystal. I agree. Some schools are uneducated about products. That is why like Victoria just said it's key talk to them. It put it in the IEP. Bring them products. If you want specific products, bring them to the IEP meeting, introduce the teacher to them if they don't know them. We are not perfect. Teachers are not perfect. No one is perfect.

Victoria: Well and accommodations dealing with bringing items in are actually pretty new. I can tell you even five years ago I didn't have any students that had extra things that they had with them that they needed that could help them focus. It wasn't a thing. You made them focus cause they were in the classroom.

Jenn Eggert: That's true. Now unfortunately folks, we are coming to the end of our show. I wanted to thank all of you for joining us today. Victoria, I want to thank you especially I know a lot of parents have been waiting to hear from a real teacher about how to help their child and I think this has been a very informative show. So again, thank you all for joining us today. I'm Jenn Eggert and you can join me every Monday at 1:00 PM eastern for more parenting tips and you can always join our parent's support group@lakikid.com/group and if you have a question you can go to lakikid.com/ask.Our website is amazing. Miguel and Jason have done a wonderful job in Annie of setting up a website that you can find our blogs, you can find our videos, you can find information products, everything kind of comes together on the website so please check out our Lakikid or page lakikid.com you will find tons of amazing information and if you are an educator, I am actually in the middle of a three part blog series made specifically for teachers that is going to help you figure out if flexible seating will work for you, the rules and how to implement it.

Jenn Eggert: Now we have Mary Ellen. That is a great idea that I am actually going to bring to Jason and Miguel. We should have an online catalog that can be printed off and taken to the IEP meeting. Victoria. Do you think that would be helpful

Victoria: Cool. Well, if you're wanting a specific product, do we need to know where to find it. So that would be a very nice preemptive way to do that.

Jenn Eggert: And that would also give you Victoria as the teacher a chance to see other products and say, oh wait, he has this need. This might be useful as well.

Victoria: One, sometimes between the parent and the teacher, we can find a product that is perfect that we might not have thought of otherwise.

Jenn Eggert: Exactly. So yes, I agree. Mary Ellen, I will be speaking to the team and we will be looking into a printable file that has our products. So I want to thank all of you for coming. Remember again, you can join our parent's support group at lakikid.com/group. And like Crystal says, thank you Victoria for your time. It is extremely appreciated. So again, folks, thank you for coming. And until next time, remember every child brings good luck.

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