Teacher creates tennis ball chairs to help students with autism with sensory issues

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Friday, February 10, 2017
Pinterest inspires teacher to craft chairs to help students with autism
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An Illinois teacher says Pinterest inspired her to use tennis balls to make chairs more sensory-friendly for students with autism.

ROUND LAKE, Ill. -- An Illinois teacher used tennis balls, hot glue, Mod Podge and paint to create a tool to help students who have sensory issues better understand the world.

Amy Maplethorpe is a first-year speech-language pathologist at Raymond Ellis Elementary School in north suburban Round Lake. Inspired by something she saw on Pinterest, she created two chairs that help facilitate "sensory seating."

In a post on the school's Facebook page, sensory seating is defined as a technique that helps students who have a hard time processing information from their senses, by providing "an alternative texture to improve sensory regulation."

Principal Beth Kiewicz told ABC News that when a child's sensory needs are met, educators can then move on to academic needs. Kiewicz said the school focuses on the whole child, making sure their social, emotional and academic needs are met.

The school said students with autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome or sensory processing disorder can benefit from sensory seating. Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy group, said vests and blankets can soothe these students, just like the chairs do.

The chairs were placed in Ellis' sensory room, where Maplethorpe told ABC News 15-20 students have benefited from using it. She said those students have been more patient, followed directions better and have become less restless while waiting to start new activities.

Directions to make the tennis-ball chairs were included in the Facebook post.

ABC News contributed to this report.