Teacher creates special "sensory" chair and it goes spectacularly viral

Miss Maplethorpe made these sensory chairs for her students. Image: <a ...
Miss Maplethorpe made these sensory chairs for her students. Image: Facebook/Raymond Ellis Elementary School 

A teacher in the US has been praised for creating ingenious "sensory" chairs that might help children with special needs.

The teacher, Miss Maplethorpe, who works at Raymond Ellis Elementary School in Illinois, hopes that the special chairs will help kids with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Down syndrome.

Posting a photo of Miss Maplethorpe with the chairs (which are covered in sliced up tennis balls) on Facebook the school explains that the chairs are for students that may have sensory challenges.

"Sensory seating is used for students who may have difficulty processing information from their senses and from the world around them. Tennis balls on the seat and backrest provide an alternative texture to improve sensory regulation "Tennis balls on the seat and backrest of the chairs provide an alternative texture which can improve sensory regulation," says the post.

The Child Mind Institute says that kids with SPD sometimes enjoy a feeling of deep pressure and like exploring different types of texture. So while the chair might look uncomfortable to others, it could be exactly what a child with sensory difficulties needs.

The school's Facebook post, which was first shared on 27 January, has gone spectacularly viral with over 90,000 shares and 13,000 comments. Many commenters call Miss Maplethorpe a genius and suggest that she markets her idea.

"This teacher needs to go right now and get a Utility and Design Patent as then go to Shark Tank. Lol This is BRILLIANT!" writes one person.

But the comments have also become a place for parents of sensory challenged kids to share their experience and educate others.

"My autistic daughter, who is also sensory seeking, will purposely stand in bowls of legos or wooden blocks. We have also had to find alternatives to her wrapping cords, leashes, and strings around her neck and pulling, (fortunately wearing a cape provides the necessary sensation she is seeking). Sometimes there is no telling what will calm a sensory seeking child," says one mum.

Another mum writes: "This is amazing!!!! My child has Sensory Processing Disorder and has to bring a wiggle seat to school. The kids make fun of him because of it so he always fights me on bringing it. I wish his teacher would do something like this.

"Amazing teacher! Thank you for what you are doing for your students!!"

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