For children with autism, the world can be a very overstimulating place. Sights, sounds, smells and textures easily overwhelm them, making it hard to concentrate in school. Sensory tools, like weighted blankets and necklaces that are safe for chewing, can help children with autism by providing a controlled sensory stimulation that helps them stay calm and focused.
Amy Maplethorpe, a first-year speech-language pathologist at Raymond Ellis Elementary School in Round Lake, Illinois, was on a mission to find sensory tools that could help the special needs kids at her school. She found just what she was looking for in a Pinterest search, and took it upon herself to make it a reality.
Using tennis balls that she cut in half, a hot glue gun, and Mod Podge, Maplethorpe covered two ordinary desk chairs in tennis balls for the kids at her school whose diagnoses include autism, Down's syndrome and ADHD.
Maplethorpe told the Huffington Post that her children have responded very positively to the new chairs. "First-grade students that have used the chair, they have become more patient and have followed directions,” she said. She added that the students were also less restless and more willing to sit calmly for longer periods of time than before.
Beth Kiewicz, the principal at Ellis, is thrilled with Maplethorpe's project. "When a child’s sensory needs are met, that allows us to move on to their academic needs," she shared with ABC News. "You have to look at the whole child — socially, emotionally and academically. That’s why we’re here."