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.
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.
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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
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
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
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
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
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.
Predawn Ergonomic Kids Desk Chair,Children Study Computer Chair,Wooden and PU Pad,Adjustable Kneeling Chair for Better Sitting Posture(Grey and White)
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.
Safco Products Zenergy Ball Chair, Black, Low Profile, Active Seating,23.0 H x 22.5 L x 22.5 W
$119.73 in stock
1 used from $74.96
CoreChair Tango Ergonomic Active-Sitting Office Chair | Patented Design to Promote Movement to Build Core Strength and Posture (Blue)
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)
$34.99 in stock
COMFYROOL Wooden Foot Massager Roller, Relax and Relieve Plantar Fasciitis, Heel, Arch Pain. Stress Relief Tool, Relaxation Practical Gifts for Men Women
$14.95 in stock
Sensory Chairs and Accessories for School Classrooms
These sensory chairs and accessories are designed to work with typical desks in school classrooms.
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)
$21.99 in stock
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
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
The Original Bouncy Bands® for Desks (Black) - Children Love Bouncing Their feet and Feeling The Tension to Relieve Their Anxiety, hyperactivity, Frustration, or Boredom.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Factory Direct Partners - 10488-BL -10488 Soft Floor Rocker - Cushioned Ground Chair for Kids Teens and Adults - Great for Reading, Gaming, Meditating, TV - Blue
$142.04 in stock
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.
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
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
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
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'
3 used from $85.41
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
Stylish Swivel Egg Chair, Unique Chair, Decor Furnitures, Tv Chair, Lounge Chair, Light Color Stylish Chair, Livingroom Bedroom Furniture,
Do you have favorite sensory chairs we should add to this guide?
Let us know in the comments.