ADHD and Alternative Seating, Essay Example
In the United States alone, there is an estimated 1.46 to 2.46 million children who suffer from ADHD. However, the disease is more prominent in boys than girls. The disease can become apparent in children as young as three years old. Most students with ADHD have difficulty staying organized and keeping up with their class assignments. In order for a teacher to successfully educate a child who has ADHD, he/she must successfully implement alternative instructional strategies that cover both academic and behavioral progress (Mulligan, p.649). A child with ADHD can display any of the following symptoms: difficulty remaining seated when told to do so, fidgeting with hands, feet, or objects, difficulty sustaining attention and waiting for a turn to participate, yelling answers before the question has been completed, difficulty following directions, abruptly shifting from task to task, making careless mistakes, loosing materials, mood swings, and need for immediate gratification (Barkley, p. 104). Children with ADHD may show a combination of these symptoms at any given time. Teachers may provide advanced organizers, simplify instructions and choices, and set academic and behavioral expectations. Because students with ADHD are easily distracted, if possible, a teacher should lower noise level in the classroom. Children with ADHD often display behaviors that resemble that of children from a younger age group. They often have difficulty forming and keeping friendships because they are unable to adequately think through the social consequences of actions (Wieider, p. 28). Classrooms that are well-managed prevent behavioral issues and are therefore the best environment for children with ADHD. Alternative seating (therapy balls) is one instructional/behavioral strategy that teachers may use with ADHD students to improve attention, sustain seating, and enhance academic performance.
The Stability Ball
Stability balls are also known as Swiss balls and therapy balls. They are usually 45-75 centimeters in diameter. They are made of very thick, durable rubber with or without 2 inch legs. The legs are used to prevent the ball from rolling away when it is not in use by the student. The legs do not stabilize the ball. Students must be properly measured and fitted with the appropriate size stability ball to avoid injury. When correctly fitted, a students’ knees should be at a 90 degree angle. The stability ball originated in Italy in 1963. They began being used in the classroom setting in 1991 by Switzerland school teachers (Carriere, p. 79).
Effect of stability balls have on student engagement and achievement
One obvious sign of attention deficit disorder is a child’s inability to remain attentive. These children are often viewed as trouble makers are dreamers because of their lack of attention (Witt, p. 27). Some children have primarily the inattentive type of ADHD, while others have a combination. These children often make careless mistakes when completing assignments. They will lose focus when trying to complete a task. Sometimes these children are looking directly at the person speaking to them, but do not seem to hear what they are saying. ADHD children are unable to follow instructions precisely. They may do the first half and an assignment correctly and do remaining portion incorrectly. These students will avoid activities that require sustained thinking or critical thinking skills (Dunn, p. 9). ADHD causes students to be forgetful and very easily distracted. Accordingly, the use of stability balls enhances students’ ability to focus during class. Research of the brain has shown a link between movement and academic performance. When students are seated on stability balls instead of traditional chairs, there is an increase of blood flow to the brain and all parts of the body. Thus, increasing focus and attention of students with ADHD (Huebner, p. 189). Hannaford (2005) added,
Thinking and learning are not all in our head. Our movements that not only express knowledge and facilitate greater cognitive function, they actually grow the brain as they increase in complexity. Our entire brain structure is intimately connected to and grown by the movement mechanism within our body. Physical movement plays an important role in the creation of nerve cell networks, which are the fundamental ground of learning (p 15-16).
Hannaford also added that students who use stability balls “score on average 40 to 60 points higher on verbal and 15 to 40 points higher in math parts of the SATs” (p. 73).
Effects of therapy balls on in-seat behavior
At any given time in the traditional classroom, one can expect to see students siting in desks lined up in straight rows. In today’s classroom, so many of the students are struggling to remain seated. Therefore, the traditional classroom is an awful place for the ADHD student (Meaux, p.10). In a typical classroom, the teacher is asking a student who has difficulty remaining attentive and focused, to remain seated for a minimum of fifty-five minutes at a time. Schilling, Washington, Billingsley, and Deitz (2003) found that students with ADHD showed improvement with in-seat behavior and handwriting skills (p.43).
Children with ADHD prefer to use as a seating device over standard seating
“Movement activates the neural wiring throughout the body, making the whole body the instrument of learning” (Hannaford, 2005). Simply put, students like to move. All children want to be able to move freely, but students with ADHD may not be able to control their impulses to move. Therefore, stability balls are ideal for them. Some students stated that they felt they finished their work better and were better behaved when sitting on the ball. Overall, the study conducted by (Dawson, p.419) concluded that 73 percent of the students who participated preferred the stability ball over the traditional chair. Seventy-three percent said that their handwriting improved while using the stability ball. However, only 18 percent of the students felt the noise levels were down when the used stability balls.
A study conducted by Fedewa and Erwin concluded that stability balls are favorable in the classroom. The study was conducted on 8 students ranging from grades 4 through 6. The students were observed for 12 weeks 3 times a week. The data they collected concluded that the use of the stability balls increased levels of attention, decreased levels of hyperactivity, and time or task and in seat (on the ball). They also found that teachers preferred the stability balls over traditional seating. They noted that the students’ in seat and on-task time improved to an average of 45 percent of the time; whereas, before the implementation the average was only about 10 percent (p.396). Many teachers also expressed that stability balls helped their students “calm down”. Other teachers noted that the noise levels in their rooms were drastically decreased when the students used stability balls (p.397). Another teacher stated that she was initially concerned with the possible moving and fidgeting her students might do when using the balls, but admits that they were more stable on the stability balls than when in the traditional desks.
The study conducted by Schilling, Washington, Billingsley, and Deitz was very in-depth. The examined several factors that stability balls could affect. First, they determined when would be the best time to implement the use of the stability ball. They decided to conduct the study during a Language Arts class that took place after lunch. The students have to regularly produce written assignments for this class. The study took place over a 12 week period of time. They noted that one participant was in constant motion and out of her seat when she was sitting in the traditional chairs. During the therapy ball phase she remained in her seat and on task. The researchers also noted that the stability ball eliminated some potential hazards. For example, they noted that this particular participant often assumed some extreme postures in the traditional chairs (tipping her chair over and balancing it on the backrest). With the stability ball she had to keep on food in contact with the floor at all times to avoid falling from the ball. As a result, they felt that the stability ball minimized classroom distractions and safety concerns (p.42-44).
According to Pfiffner, DuPaul, and Barkley, there are various types of behavioral interventions. Consequently, stability seating can be used as a form of behavioral intervention. An approach called Parallel Teaching is done when social behavior and academic material are taught together. Managing student behavior allows the teacher to be consistent in discipline, thus allowing her enhance academics within the classroom setting (Pfiffner, p.96). This blending involves scanning the classroom every minute or two for possible good behavioral issues. By addressing students who are behaving correctly, instead of those who are misbehaving, will entice those misbehaving students to behave. Traditionally, teachers point out bad behaviors. This strategy couple with the balancing ball will help to eliminate classroom distractions.
Based upon the evidence of the literature, one can conclude that stability balls will enhance achievement in any class by enhancing ADHD students’ ability to remain focused during class time. Although the studies and information gathered was collected from students in grades 4-6, the implementation of stability balls can benefits students of all ages (Schroder, p. 98). If teachers correctly implement the use of stability ball in their classrooms, they will see improvement in both their general education students and their students who suffer from ADHD. Once all distractions have been eliminated from the classroom, successful learning is eminent.
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