10 Ways OT Can Help Children Who Can’t Sit Still

If you are the parent of a little one, you may be amazed by their energy level and ability to be constantly moving! This is true for some children more than others. While having energy is not necessarily a bad thing, there are designated times throughout the school day when children need to sit still, such as circle time, independent reading, or while the teacher is delivering a new lesson to the class. It can be tiring keeping up with a little one, but there are many strategies that you can use to help them practice sitting still. Some of these techniques can even be practiced at home.

Why are reasons that kids can’t sit still?
There are many factors that contribute to a child having trouble sitting still. One reason that might come to mind is Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), as of 2011, approximately 11% of children between the ages of 4 and 17 were diagnosed with ADHD. With such a high number of children being diagnosed with ADHD, it is not uncommon for children nowadays to have trouble sitting still in school.
A child may also experience difficulties sitting still in school if they have sensory issues. These sensory issues might occur in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or sensory processing disorder (SPD). Children with sensory issues may have trouble with self-regulation, which can create issues with sitting still.
Other factors that might contribute to high energy levels and issues sitting still are diet or sleep cycles. If a child is eating a diet that is rich in processed foods and sugar, they may experience behavioral issues as a result. Children who are coming to school hungry may also have difficulty focusing (due to being preoccupied by their hunger). When children are not sleeping through the night, they may be arriving at school sleep deprived, which can also lead to trouble focusing and sitting still during their classes.

How occupational therapy can help
Pediatric occupational therapy works with children to build the skills needed to complete daily activities (occupations) at home and at school. This can also include self-regulation around sensory issues, which can help a child to sit still.

10 Ways OT Can Help Children Who Can’t Sit Still
Fidgets: Sometimes giving the child a fidget toy to hold during class will help them to stay engaged and sitting still in class. Click here for an example on Amazon.

Taking small breaks: It might be helpful for children to periodically get out of their seats to take a quick lap of the classroom.

Exercise ball as a chair: Some children might benefit from using an exercise ball instead of a typical chair.

Tactile cushions: These cushions can help a child sit still in their seat during homework time or during class at school (if their teacher permits it during class). Click here to buy your own off Amazon.

Hands-on activities: Some teachers might be open to incorporating activities that are more hands-on and involve moving around the classroom, so that students are not required to sit for such long periods of time.

Essential oils: Using peppermint essential oil in the classroom can help to improve focus in students (which can also help them remain seated).

Chew toys/Z-Vibes: If children experience oral defensiveness/oral sensory issues, an object that they can chew, such as a Z-Vibes can help them to focus and stay in their seat.

Weighted vests: If a child with sensory issues benefits from deep pressure, having a child wear a weighted vest throughout class can help them to remain seated in class.

Play Doh or Theraputty: With an effect similar to a fidget, having a child play with Play Doh or thera-putty during school can help them stay engaged (and seated!) during class.

Therapy bands on chairs: For some children, it can be helpful to attach a therapy band to the legs of their chair in class, so that they can be moving their feet while staying in their chair.
A pediatric occupational therapist may be a great resource if your child is experiencing issues sitting still in class. If you would like to learn more about pediatric occupational therapy, Chicago Occupational Therapy provides many services for children, including ABA therapy, speech therapy, and a therapeutic preschool program.

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