Sensory Chairs for Active Seating with Autism and ADHD: A Guide

Sensory chairs can help children and adults with autism, ADHD, anxiety, and/or sensory processing disorder to focus at work and school. For neurodivergent people, our environment is extremely important to our success. Addressing our sensorimotor needs can help us to self-regulate and prevent meltdowns and panic attacks. As an autistic adult, I want to help empower neurodivergent people of all ages to support our unique skills and challenges. I hope this in-depth guide to sensory chairs can help you evaluate the wide variety of options available and choose the right active seating for your needs. 

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Sensory Chairs for Work and Studying

How Sensory Chairs Work

Sensory chairs can help children and adults with ADHD, autism, other neurological conditions, and even neurotypical people to focus while working or studying. Sensory chairs provide various forms of movement and sensory stimulation to the person who sits on them. They may wobble or rock, spin, and/or provide compression or the feeling of being hugged. Each of these sensations can fulfill our natural human needs for movement and fidgeting, which can be magnified in people with sensory processing conditions such as autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and more.

Multiple research studies show that using a stability ball can improve children’s performance in the classroom. For example, a study published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy found that fourth and fifth-grade students who used a stability ball in the classroom showed increased levels of attention, decreased levels of hyperactivity, and increased time on task. Teachers also noticed these differences and preferred the stability balls compared to regular classroom chairs.

Another study of active seating published in The Physical Educator compared three groups of sixth-grade students in math classrooms in Minnesota. One group did no physical exercise during the class, another had two 5-minute physical activity breaks during class, and the third class used stability balls. Both classes that engaged in physical activity demonstrated improved standardized test scores, but the class using stability balls improved the most compared to the other groups.

How to Choose the Right Sensory Chair

When choosing a sensory chair for yourself or your child, here are several important factors to consider.

1. Choose a seat that meets their individual sensory needs.

Each neurodivergent person has different sensory needs that should be taken into account. For example, some people are hypersensitive and certain forms of movement may bother them, while others are hyposensitive and may need additional proprioceptive input to thrive.

2. Decide how you will use the sensory chair and the goals you want the chair to help accomplish.

Consider the types of sensory input that help you or your loved one achieve the goals for which you are purchasing the sensory chair. Many sensory chairs are designed to increase focus and provide an outlet for fidgeting, but others may be used to provide calming sensations and prevent or defuse a meltdown.

3. Be sure to consider the person’s general physical ability and balance.

Not all sensory chairs work for all people. For example, children and adults with hypotonia or spasticity may have difficulty balancing on a wobble stool or stability ball. If they’re struggling not to fall, that will make it hard to concentrate. For people with impaired physical coordination, a supportive chair combined with bouncy bands, foot fidgets, or handheld fidget toys may be a better option. If you’re considering a beanbag chair or other calming chair for someone with limited mobility, make sure it is soft enough to provide comfort but not so soft that the child or adult can’t climb out of it easily.

4. Use multiple types of seating as part of an overall sensory-friendly environment.

You may find that having multiple seating options works best for yourself or your child, depending on the task at hand, the person’s mood, and the general sensory environment. Speaking of which, sensory chairs work best when combined with an overall environment that is conducive to sensory regulation. Using noise-canceling headphones and soothing sensory lighting can help create a space where it’s easy to focus and remain calm.

Sensory Chairs We Recommend

I’ve gathered a variety of sensory seating, going beyond the usual active chairs you may have seen elsewhere to help you find the right solution for yourself or a loved one. 

This article contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. 

Sensory Chairs for Work and Studying

These sensory chairs are perfect for the office, working from home, or doing homework.

Ball Chairs and Stability Balls

Yoga ball office chairs are popular with adults and teens who want to stay active and focused while working at a desk. If you prefer extra balance support, choose a chair with a back. If you need to move around more, a backless stability ball chair may be your ideal work seating.

Gaiam 610-6002RTL Balance Ball Chair - Classic Yoga Ball Chair with 52cm Stability Ball, Pump & Exercise Guide for Home or Office, Black

$69.98  in stock
7 used from $53.75
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Gaiam Balance Ball Chair Stool, Half-Dome Stability Ball Adjustable Swivel Rolling Chair Drafting Stool for Desks in Office, Classroom, Doctors, Physicians, Massage Therapists, Salons - Black 23

$119.99  in stock
3 used from $68.12
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Gaiam Kids Balance Ball Chair - Classic Children's Stability Ball Chair, Alternative School Classroom Flexible Desk Seating for Active Students with Satisfaction Guarantee, Blue/Green

$63.31  in stock
4 used from $56.18
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Gaiam Kids Stay-N-Play Children's Balance Ball - Flexible School Chair Active Classroom Desk Alternative Seating | Built-in Stay-Put Soft Stability Legs, Includes Air Pump, 52cm, Tune Out

$19.99  in stock
2 used from $13.91
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Gaiam Kids Peanut Bounce Desk Chair - Exercise Yoga Balance Stability Sitting Ball - Sensory Toys for Autistic Children - Flexible Seating for School or Classroom, Wiggle Seat for Boys and Girls

$19.99  in stock
4 used from $14.98
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Kneeling Chair

Kneeling chairs are an ergonomic form of seating that some fidgeters may find more comfortable. They also allow the user to rock back and forth, a sensation many autistic people (including me) enjoy. 

Sleekform Austin Kneeling Chair - Home Office Ergonomic Computer Desk Stool For Active Sitting

$229.99  in stock
2 new from $229.99
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Predawn Ergonomic Kids Desk Chair,Children Study Computer Chair,Wooden and PU Pad,Adjustable Kneeling Chair for Better Sitting Posture(Grey and White)

$49.99  in stock
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Active Stools and Chairs

Active seats, also known as wobble stools, are popular in classrooms to support students with ADHD and autism, but can be used by neurodiverse people of all ages. They are best for kids and adults who have good balance, and may not be suited for those with physical disabilities or conditions such as dyspraxia that affect coordination.

Upaloop Fitness Seat Stool Chair for Stability Balance Yoga Office School Wellness Active Sitting

$97.97  in stock
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Safco Products Zenergy Ball Chair, Black, Low Profile, Active Seating,23.0 H x 22.5 L x 22.5 W

$261.00
$119.73
 in stock
44 new from $119.73
1 used from $74.96
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

CoreChair Tango Ergonomic Active-Sitting Office Chair | Patented Design to Promote Movement to Build Core Strength and Posture (Blue)

$495.00  in stock
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Foot Fidgets for Adults and Teens

Foot fidgets can be used with or without sensory chairs, and allow people to stim while keeping their hands free for typing, writing, or holding a book.

Dikdoc Foot Rest for Under Desk at Work, Home Office Foot Stool, Ottoman Foot Massager for Plantar Fasciitis Relief, Soft Silicone Footrests, Anti-Fatigue Fidget Toy (Orange)

$49.99
$34.99
 in stock
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

COMFYROOL Wooden Foot Massager Roller, Relax and Relieve Plantar Fasciitis, Heel, Arch Pain. Stress Relief Tool, Relaxation Practical Gifts for Men Women

$15.95
$14.95
 in stock
3 used from $14.80
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

 

Sensory Chairs and Accessories for School Classrooms

These sensory chairs and accessories are designed to work with typical desks in school classrooms. 

Wobble Cushions 

Stuck with regular school desks? A wobble cushion turns them into instant fidget chairs. Plus, since the frame of the desk is stable, a wobble seat may be a better option for kids with developmental coordination disorders or balance issues.

Trideer Inflated Wobble Cushion - Wiggle Seat for Sensory Kids(Multiple Colors), Core Balance Disc (Extra Thick), Flexible Seating for All Age(Office & School & Home)

$29.99
$21.99
 in stock
4 used from $16.07
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Shaped Wiggle Seats by Bouncyband – Green Monster, 13"x10.5"x2.2" – Inflatable Sensory Cushion for Kids, Improves Student Productivity and Focus, Comes with Easy-Inflation Pump to Customize Firmness

$26.99  in stock
2 new from $26.99
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Bouncy Bands and Foot Fidgets

Bouncy bands attach to school desks to help kids who tap their feet and/or struggle to stay in their seats during class. You can attach them to dining chairs at home, too! 

Bouncyband Wiggle Feet, Dark Blue, 12” x 15” x 2.5” – Foot Fidget Cushion, Sensory and ADHD Tools Can Help You Stay on Task Longer - Alleviate Anxiety/Stress, Hyperactivity and Boredom

$30.95  in stock
2 new from $30.94
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

The Original Bouncy Bands® for Desks (Black) - Children Love Bouncing Their feet and Feeling The Tension to Relieve Their Anxiety, hyperactivity, Frustration, or Boredom.

$16.99  in stock
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

 

Sensory Chairs for Rocking

Rocking is a natural, healthy, and comforting stimming behavior for people on the autism spectrum — and neurotypical people too. Rocking can help reduce stress, prevent autism meltdowns, calm kids and adults who are experiencing panic attacks, and so much more.  

Rocking Chair

You really can’t go wrong with a classic rocking chair. Here are a few indoor and outdoor rockers I like — and a glider if you prefer your sensory chair to have a sliding motion with less bouncing. 

Cedar Adirondack Rocking Chair - Handmade by Ozark Mountain Furniture

★★★★★
$300.00  in stock
Etsy.com
as of September 25, 2022 12:11 AM

Angel Line Windsor Glider and Ottoman, Natural and Gray

$254.82  in stock
5 new from $254.82
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Climbing Arch Rocker

This multi-functional furniture for toddlers can be used for climbing and developing coordination. Then just flip it over and with the included pillow, it becomes a comfortable rocker.

4 pieces Montessori Climbing Set - Climbing Arch/Rocker - Climbing/Sliding Ramp - XL Rocker Cushion

★★★★★
$137.00  in stock
Etsy.com
as of September 25, 2022 12:11 AM

Floor Rocker for Gaming or Studying

Floor rockers are usually associated with playing video games, and they’re great for that purpose, but they can also be used for reading and studying. Some feature built-in speakers with Bluetooth, so you can listen to guided meditation or your favorite lo-fi chill beats.    

X Rocker, 5111601, Jynx Floor Rocker 2.1 BT, 37.01" x 22.83" x 34.65", Black

$186.42  in stock
2 used from $79.28
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Factory Direct Partners - 10488-BL -10488 Soft Floor Rocker - Cushioned Ground Chair for Kids Teens and Adults - Great for Reading, Gaming, Meditating, TV - Blue

$150.77
$142.04
 in stock
1 used from $45.50
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Sensory Seating for Bouncing

Children and adults who are hyperactive and/or sensory-seeking often love to bounce. A simple ball with a handle can fulfill this need and is safer than a trampoline.

Bouncy Balls

AppleRound Space Hopper Ball with Air Pump: 20in/50cm Diameter for Ages 7-9, Hop Ball, Kangaroo Bouncer, Hoppity Hippity Hop, Jumping Ball, Sit and Bounce

$16.90  in stock
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Hugging Sensory Chair

Deep pressure stimulation can be tremendously helpful for children and adults on the autism spectrum. Temple Grandin had to invent her own “hug box,” but today we have weighted blankets and vests — and these sensory chairs that feel like you’re sitting in a hug.

Bouncyband Large Comfy Peapod Sensory Chair – Blue – 80” – Fun, Inflatable Peapod Chair Provides Therapeutic Sensory Relief and Compression – Fits 2-3 Kids or 1 Adult, Includes Electric Air Pump

$159.99  in stock
2 new from $159.99
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Beanbag Sensory Chairs

Beanbag chairs naturally fit to the body, helping to calm neurodivergent kids and adults who are overstimulated by stress or too much sensory input. Big Joe makes a beanbag chair for any size and need, and they offer both traditional bean and foam fillings. I sit in my Big Joe beanbag chair when I’m in an autistic shutdown or on the verge of a meltdown and it really helps!

Big Joe Beanbag Chairs

Big Joe Milano Beanbag Chair Stretch Limo Black Smartmax

$63.06  in stock
2 new from $63.06
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Big Joe Hug Beanbag Chair Gray Hyde

$86.99
$81.47
 in stock
2 new from $79.00
1 used from $50.21
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Big Joe Fuf XXL Foam Beanbag Chair Navy Plush

$189.00  in stock
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

More Beanbag Chairs

Sofa Sack - Plush Ultra Soft Bean Bags Chairs for Kids, Teens, Adults - Memory Foam Beanless Bag Chair with Microsuede Cover - Foam Filled Furniture for Dorm Room - Purple 5'

$110.99  in stock
5 new from $110.99
3 used from $85.41
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Egg Sensory Chair

I love vintage design, and a comfortable retro egg chair is a great place to decompress from sensory overload.

Ulax Furniture Wicker Egg Chair Nest Basket Indoor/Outdoor Lounger for Patio, Backyard, Living Room, Swivel Egg Chair with Cushion, Beige

$359.00  in stock
Amazon.com
as of October 1, 2022 2:44 PM

Stylish Swivel Egg Chair, Unique Chair, Decor Furnitures, Tv Chair, Lounge Chair, Light Color Stylish Chair, Livingroom Bedroom Furniture,

$1,200.00  in stock
Etsy.com
as of September 25, 2022 12:11 AM

Sensory Swings

Looking for sensory swings? We have an entire article devoted to them here.

Do you have favorite sensory chairs we should add to this guide?

Let us know in the comments.

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