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We received a beautiful child-size IKEA table and chairs set as a gift for my son shortly after he was born. After I got over the initial excitement, I remembered that my son might be unable to sit on those chairs and play at that table for a long time, if at all. Disappointment set in. I imagined my little guy would only be subjected to ugly, clinical-looking equipment for the rest of his life.
When my son’s second birthday came around, I pulled out that set and tried a billion ways to get him to stay on it with some support. Sadly, nothing I invented was safe enough to hold him there securely. I was determined. I brought the chair to our rehabilitation center’s seating department and asked the technician to work his magic. He had a solution for us. From that day on, I’ve only looked at the possibilities kids’ furniture hold.
Why some furniture may be a challenge for neurodivergent or disabled children
- Children with physical disabilities need secure equipment to keep them safe in any piece of furniture. Furniture sold in local shops is not adapted.
Suggestions for adapted equipment/furniture
The suggestions below are based on our experience. I share some of the most attractive and functional pieces I’ve found. However, always consult with the child’s specialists before deciding on furniture for any disabled child.
Have a proper place for the child to sit when engaging in fine motor activities. Having the child’s lower body and trunk supported is important to get the best results with their hands.
Even though it might not seem significant, the table/desk you work at with a child is important. A few times, before we used a desk, we tried to work on crafts on my son’s tray table, which we also use for feeding. As soon as I placed the tray in front of my son, he’d request food. He associated the feeding chair with meals. I needed a separate seat to work on other activities.
It makes sense. I wouldn’t say I like to eat at the same place I use glue for crafting. I know that sometimes, there is no other choice. If possible, try to have a different surface to work on academic activities. This helps the child transition from one task to another simply by associating with the various pieces of furniture.
If it’s impossible to have the child seated at a table or desk, work in a different space. If the child needs to use the tray that comes with their wheelchair (or if the feeding chair is your only option), move the chair to a different space from where they are fed. This will help the child differentiate between different activities.
This idea is also doable for the child who doesn’t need adapted equipment. Set a special place for the child to work on school tasks. If it has to be a table, let them sit where they don’t ordinarily sit to eat. A simple change in space significantly affects motivation, concentration, and learning.
When my son outgrew the crib, the options offered by the local community services center did work for us. They were clinical-looking and clunky, and frankly, they made me sad. I didn’t want my son’s sleep space to look like a hospital.
While browsing through a catalogue, one day, I noticed they sold bed tents for children. I thought about how much fun that must be for children. But again, the open sides didn’t make it a safe possibility for us. I found an adapted version designed by a mother of an Autistic child.
What does a bed have to do with homeschooling? Each afternoon, we have a rest period as part of our rhythm. While my son doesn’t nap anymore, he’s placed on his bed to “rest his bones,” as I say. He loves being in there, and I get a little break, too, knowing he’s in a safe place.
What pieces of furniture/equipment do you use?
Are you looking for additional support? I offer personalized consultations offering ideas such as these!