By: Dr. T.G. Showalter, OTD, OTR/L
Close your eyes and think back to when you were a child. Try to remember building a fort or getting into a tent and snuggling up with lots of blankets and stuffed animals. Somewhere you could separate yourself from the bombardment of the outside world. Maybe you brought in your Barbie dolls or army figures. Think about how nice it was to have your own personal space and how calm, simple, safe, and organized you were. Wouldn’t that be nice if we had a way to mimic that feeling for students who are having difficulties in the classroom setting?
After attending a conference last school year, I decided to look up a webpage designed by a fellow OT in my area who I ran into. On her page, she had pictures of a really neat seating modification that she was using in her private clinic as well as in some of her schools where she worked. Instantly, I was taken back to my fort and Barbie days and couldn’t wait to share this with all of the creative teachers that I am so fortunate to work with on a daily basis.
Basically, it consists of a regular storage bin easily purchased at any discount department or home improvement store. One half of the lid is cut and removed and then the edges are covered in thick duct tape for safety. Cushions, pillows, towels, stuffed animals, etc. may be added to “soften” the inside. I even had one resourceful teacher who filled the inside with packing peanuts.
So, why is this bin necessary you ask? At my school, we are helping children of all abilities access their education and participate to the best of their abilities. Sometimes students require different seating modifications because they physically lack the ability to sit unsupported. Other times children physically can sit, but they have attentional and/or sensory issues which make sitting, focusing, and learning difficult. This is where the bin comes in. The bin provides a concrete boundary for that student’s personal space and much needed calming sensory input. The student can retreat into the bin if they need a break or sit and listen to a story being read while manipulating fidget toys. They can complete written work on the top part of the lid like sitting at a desk, and they can get into and exit the bin easily for participating in activities at the board. More over, the bin has lots of room for affixing visual aides easily with Velcro.
The idea is so successful that even a leading therapy equipment company is making something similar for the bargain price of $115 dollars. I purchased and made mine for less than ten. I have seen amazing results not only in self-contained classrooms, but in some of my inclusions classrooms where even the neurotypical models often try to negotiate their “turns” to sit in the bin. So, if your child is having difficulty sitting and attending consider this really cool modification. It is cheap, easy to construct and just another example of how thinking “outside the box” by putting children “inside the bin” can be a huge success!
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