It’s a new trend. Teachers are buying into it. Administrators are loving it. And children are benefitting from it.
What is it? Flexible—or alternative—seating in the classroom.
Google "alternative seating" or "flexible seating," and you will find images of beanbag chairs, swivel seats, and rolling stools—along with articles by researchers and reporters, blog posts by young teachers excited to give this a try, and GoFundMe accounts of teachers who are trying to fund the equipment to make it possible.
For decades, students have been expected to sit in a hard plastic or wood chair at their table or desk for hours each day. The expectation was for them to sit up straight, be still, and face the front.
Teachers discovered that some of their students could pay closer attention if they could stand at their desk during instruction. Other students were more successful at math if they bounced on a trampoline or did a few jumping jacks. Some kept their behavior under control if they sat on the floor under the table for a few minutes. While some teachers had a hard time allowing these strange ideas into their classrooms, others recognized their success and welcomed them little by little.
Fast forward to the present, and there is a movement toward classrooms designed around the idea of flexible seating. It allows an array of seating choices for students, and many times they get to choose which seat works best for them. Alternative seating classrooms are mostly seen at the elementary level; however, some high school teachers are finding it works for their students, too.
Squishy air cushions or exercise balls allow students to move and fidget while working at their desk. A rocking chair might give students the vestibular movement they need. Sitting cross-legged on a pillow on the floor at a very low table helps other students stay comfortable and working. Lying on a plush carpet while reading books might be ideal for some students. These and more are allowed in a classroom that encourages flexible seating.
If you think your child might benefit from some sort of alternative seating, be sure to request it. Alternative seating can be noted in the accommodations section of your child’s IEP. For advice and specifics, ask your child’s occupational or physical therapist.
Before I had my son, I was a special education teacher. I was one of those teachers who believed that these "special" kids needed to be kept safe. After teaching in a self-contained special education class, my views slowly started to change.