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Music therapy: sensory tools for sitting

When you're a kid, sitting can be really tough! We can help kids to remain seated with a couple fun tools. My favorite sitting tool is this sensory cushion (pictured above). In a one-to-one setting it is almost always my first question, "do you want the blue cushion or the green circle?" (the green circle is a flat place marker). Almost every answer (gestural or verbal) is for the blue sensory cushion. By beginning the session with this choice it helps to build their sense of autonomy and gives the child a sense of control right from the start. Yes, they have to sit, but what they sit on is their choice.

The sensory or "wiggle" cushion engages the core which helps focus and burn off excess energy, helping kids to feel calm and remain seated. The cushions are especially beneficial for children who have low muscle tone and/or a need for constant movement based sensory input. The cushion I use has a smooth side and a bumpy side for increased sensory input. This allows for a second choice, "do you want smooth or bumpy?". I offer this choice in the beginning of the session but also if the child pops up and leaves the cushion. Rather than demanding the child come back and sit I ask which side they would like to sit on. This is often very effective in bringing a child back to their cushion.

This cushion is not a replacement for much needed movement breaks, so don't forget to offer movement breaks. It's important not to wait until the child visibly needs to move but rather include movement throughout to help them remain grounded and focused.

Groups: It may not be feasible to offer sensory seats to a whole group depending on the size of the group. I use floor circles for large groups. I have two colors and enough to offer each child a choice of either color. When working in classrooms: "do you want the red chair or the blue chair?" "Do you want to sit here or here?".

Being able to sit and focus is a very important skill for children to develop and there are many ways we can help them to work on this skill. Even as adults we know that sitting still and focusing can be tough! There are some easy steps we can implement to help these kiddos and avoid power struggles.

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