In this post we cover common concerns parents have for their children and how bean bags can help children with disabilities feel safer, relaxed and happier. These common concerns cover the physical inputs your child faces, and how we can make them feel a lot more comfortable whether they are in the class room, playing or relaxing at home.
Children with sensory disabilities can sometimes have trouble organising information from the senses. If your child is hypersensitive, feeling there is too much going on and they have extreme reactions to things, certain bean bags should be eliminated from your shopping list. If they are hyposensitive on the other hand, feeling they are not getting enough input from their surroundings (such as having a high tolerance to pain) this drastically shapes what bean bag would suit them best. If they are very sensitive, choosing the right bean bag to prevent them from getting overwhelmed is very important.
Something that is in a neutral colour and doesn’t wrap around them would be more suitable. You don’t want to choose a bean bag which is too big as they may feel overwhelmed by the size and may fear that the bean bag will swallow them up, so to speak.
If your child enjoys being stimulated by their environment and being close to others however and their sensory cues are focused on taking as much in as possible, then size is not as relevant.
Large bean bags for special needs can certainly do the trick. They offer a bigger area to play on and kids enjoy pushing them into different shapes. Picking a bean bag with lots of bright colours can also work really well in this case, contrasting colours which offer more visual interest are a great idea.
With all furniture comes some risk of injury and our job as carers is to limit these as much as possible. The great news is that bean bags eliminate the risks inherent in most common furniture. There are no sharp edges or corners, there are no hard surfaces to crash onto or heavy parts which can fall off, they are low to the ground and mouldable so when you go to slide off, it bends to make it a gentle lowering.
The one risk that can be a concern is the beans inside the bag. They may cause suffocation if ingested and should be kept away from all children. Be sure to purchase bean bags from Australia, as they must all comply with Australian safety standards before being cleared for sale. Another feature to look for is a bean bag with a safety zipper, one where the ‘handle’ on the zipper has been removed. This prevents little fingers from opening the bag and getting into the filling itself. The zipper should also be a self-locking zipper, one where the bean bag is automatically locked unless a paper clip or pin is used to release a trigger on the lock. There are a few bean bags which have this feature, so be sure to ask the retailer before sending money their way.
Another aspect of safety is health and hygiene. Buying a bean bag made of commercial grade vinyl which is stain resistant, mould resistant and waterproof is a big plus for home or school use. A clean cloth wipe to the outside is all that is needed. For a cloth bean bag you will need to remove the beans and wash the cover separately.
Comfort & support
One of the highest priorities for purchasing any bean bag should be for comfort and support. Bean bags which provide back support are beneficial to growing bones and encourage better posture. For children who don’t have great control of their muscles, lower back support is even more important as it can help prevent them from falling off. Bean bags which wrap around the body, creating a cocoon feeling are also much better suited for these children that need more support. So, if your child decides they want to push the boundaries you can feel confident that physical harm is drastically limited.
Pressure on joints
Easing pressure on limbs and joints to diminish any physical stress is very important for children with physical disabilities. The soft and flexible nature of bean bags means a lot less pressure on little joints and limbs, and a much happier child. Sourcing the right bean bag design means being aware of how they currently hold their body when they are naturally at ease. Do they lie on their stomachs while reading a book? Cross their legs when playing with a puzzle?
You want to pick a design which ergonomically matches how your children feel most at comfortable. These days there are so many bean bag designs which makes finding the right fit easier than ever before.
Children with disabilities that affect body awareness can struggle with regular furniture.
We don’t often think about reaching for a chair and sitting on it. Perhaps we don’t even think of this at all. Some children do however find it difficult to be aware of where to place their hands, keep balanced or grasp for anything. Bean bag chairs are particularly great for these situations as they are easy to get on, easy to move and offer minimal risk of injury from misplacing your grip or loosing balance. Your child can sit on a bean bag is a multitude of different positions, there is no right way so they can never be embarrassed about ‘getting it wrong’. They can sit on the edge of the bag, in the middle or lay out flat, whichever pleases them more. This builds confidence and helps you to work with them to create a greater sense of body awareness one step at a time.
Building up concentration one ‘block’ at a time is an effective way to improve your child’s ability to concentrate on tasks at hand. Starting with a small task and working up from there has shown to help many children. This of course cannot be done if your child does not feel calm. Special needs bean bags do a great job of carrying your child’s weight in a way which feels evenly spread, comfortable and relaxing. When sitting on traditional furniture there are one or two body parts where most of our weight is focused and even after a short period of time we start to notice it. Your back might feel slightly strained, your buttocks a little numb if sitting on a chair for a while. Bean bags are a great way to not have these problems interfere with tasks at hand and to promote concentration when dealing with more important tasks.
Occupational therapy bean bags have been around for decades and are sometimes overlooked for children with disabilities. They are seen as just furniture without the extra benefit they provide. We hope this post has shown the benefits you may not have thought about, from sensory input disabilities and overall comfort, to making life easier for carers. Choosing the right bean bag can make all the difference for children with disabilities. It helps them feel a greater sense of calmness, comfort and provides a great space to thrive in whilst learning and playing.
Dean Roller is the founder of Bliss Bean Bags. Where custom bean bags are handmade in Australia. They including a lifetime warranty and come in a huge range of colours. The team at Bliss Bean Bags is happy to answer any questions you might have. Visit www.blissbeanbags.com.au to find out more.