Day 16: Furniture and Equipment for the Child with Special Needs

31 days medal 400 by 400 redWe received a beautiful child-size Ikea table and chairs set as a gift for my son shortly after he was born. It is the most spectacular set with bright colors and intriguing shapes on the chairs.  After I got over the initial excitement, I remembered that my son might not be able to sit on those chairs and play at that table for a long time yet– if at all.  Disappointment set in once again.  I thought my little guy would only be subjected to ugly, clinical-looking equipment and have his childhood ripped out from under him along with everything else.

When my son’s second birthday came around, I pulled out that set knowing this was the typical age children play with such furniture.  I sat him on the chair and tried a billion ways to get him to stay on it with some kind of support.  Sadly, nothing I invented was safe enough to hold him there securely.  But, I was determined.  I brought the chair to our rehabilitation’s seating department and asked the technician if he could create some kind of insert that could be attached to it.  Sure enough, he had an answer for me.  And, from that day on, I’ve only looked at the possibilities kids’ furniture hold.

Furniture screenshot

While the many beautiful pieces of furniture pinned on Pinterest may not work for your child, don’t despair. I’ll show you some safe adapted alternatives I’ve found. And, ugly is not an option.

Why some furniture may be a challenge for children with special needs

  • Children with physical disabilities need to have secure equipment to keep them safe in any piece of furniture they use.  Furniture sold in local shops are not adapted.

Furniture Equipment for the Child with Special Needs

Suggestions for adapted equipment/ furniture

The suggestions below are based on our experience.  I am sharing some of the most attractive and functional pieces of equipment I’ve found and that we’re using to make homeschooling a little easier.  However, always consult with your child’s specialists before purchasing any pieces of equipment for your child.

Seating

When homeschooling, you need to have a proper place for your child to sit for those times that you are engaging in fine motor activities.  It’s important to have your child’s lower body and trunk supported in order to get the best results with his hands.

adapted seating for the child with special needs

This chair was custom-made by a locally-run small business that makes adapted equipment for children with special needs. The craftsman came to the home to learn about our needs and designed the chair accordingly. You’ll notice how it’s quite attractive. It’s made of wood and fits right into our décor. We have a tray that goes along with it for feedings. It can be pushed underneath all standard-sized tables and grows along with the child.  Tip for you: Find a local craftsman who is skilled and knows the standards for adapted equipment.  What can he create for you?

adapted insert - Furniture for the child with special needs

This is the set of table and chairs that my little guy received as a gift. You can see the insert that was custom-made by the technician at our rehabilitation center.  You may not see the footrest this creative technician added to the chair to make it comfortable for him.  My son is able to sit at the table along with peers and not be an outsider when they visit. In fact, children often want to sit in that chair themselves!  Tip for you: Ask your child’s local rehabilitation center what they can adjust/ create for your child based on the pieces you already own.

adapted portable seat - furniture for the child with special needs

We purchased this seat because we needed something portable for when we visit others. It’s made specifically for children with special needs, and it’s soft and comfortable (I’ve sat in it myself).  We sit our little guy in here when spend time together in the living room.  It’s a little more comfortable than the feeding seat, and – what do you know? It also blends in with our home furnishings!

Desk

Even though it might not seem significant, the table/ desk you work at with your child is indeed 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’d place the tray before my son, he’d concentrate on nothing else but getting food.  It was such a terrible distraction that I knew I needed a separate seat for working on “school” activities.

And, it makes sense, really.  I personally don’t like to eat at the same place I use glue for crafting.  I know that sometimes, there is no other choice. But, as much as possible, try to have a separate surface to work on academic activities.  This helps your child transition from one task to another simply by associating the different pieces of furniture.

If it’s not possible to have your child seated at a table/ desk, work in a different part of the house.  Even if your child needs to use the tray that comes with his wheelchair, then, move the chair to a different part of the house from where you feed him so that it helps your child distinguish the difference in activities before you even begin.

This idea is also doable for the child who doesn’t need adapted equipment.  Set a special place for your child to work on school tasks.  If it has to be the kitchen table, let him sit where he doesn’t ordinarily sit to eat.  A simple change in space makes a huge difference for motivation, concentration and learning.

Adapted desk - furniture for the child with special needs

This is an adapted desk we purchased that allows my son’s adapted seat to slip right under. We move it away from the wall so that I can sit and face him on the other side (notice there are no obstructions underneath the desk so that both our legs fit nicely). It’s also high enough so that when I stand behind him to do hand-over-hand, I don’t put strain on my back. Also notice how it is a neutral color and blends with the rest of the house décor.

Bed

When my son outgrew the crib, the options offered by the local community services center just did not sit right with me.  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.  He’s just a little boy.

One day, while browsing through a catalogue, I noticed that 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.  That’s when I did an online search for adapted bed tents and landed on this one – created by a mother of a child with autism.

What does a bed have to do with homeschooling? Each afternoon, as part of our rhythm, we have a rest period.  While my son doesn’t nap much anymore, he’s placed in his bed to “rest his bones,” as I like to say.  He absolutely loves being in there and I get a little break, too, knowing he’s in a safe place.

adapted bed tent for the child with special needs

This tent zips from the outside – so the child can’t get out on his own. It’s really breatheable and secure. I absolutely love this purchase. It saved our nights and “naptimes”.

You can find links to these pieces of equipment on my Pinterest board.

What pieces of furniture/ equipment do you have that helps make homeschooling your child with special needs a little easier?

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