A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Spring, 2017 | Number 2, Volume 31

Therapy balls may improve behavior of ASD students in class

A small study suggests that changing classroom seating may improve the behavior of some students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 

Fifteen students with autism participated in the eight-week study. The researchers analyzed the students’ behavior under three different conditions: with the students seated in regular classroom chairs, on therapy balls, or on chairs with air cushions. 

The researchers say 13 of the 15 children spent significantly more time in their seats and 8 of the 15 increased their on-task behavior while seated on the therapy balls. In addition, students exhibited significantly fewer stereotyped movements and better communication and social skills when sitting on the therapy balls. No significant effect of the air cushions was seen. 

The results are similar to those of a 2004 study that reported “substantial improvements in engagement and in-seat behavior” when participants with ASD were seated on therapy balls. A 2010 study, however, found that while sitting on a therapy ball benefited some children with ASD, children with poor postural stability actually performed more poorly in this condition.


“The impact of dynamic seating on classroom behavior of students with autism spectrum disorder,” N. Matin Sadr, H. A. Haghgoo, S. A. Samadi, M. Rassafi ani, E. Bakhshi, and H. Hassanabadi, Iranian Journal of Child Neurology, Vol. 11, No. 1, 29-36,Winter 2017. Address: N. Matin Sadr, Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences, Tehran, Iran. 


“Alternative seating for young children with autism spectrum disorder: Effects on classroom behavior,” Denise Lynn Schilling and Ilene S. Schwartz, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Vol. 34, No. 4, August 2004, 423-32. 


“Effectiveness of therapy ball chairs on classroom participation in children with autism spectrum disorders,” Nancy Bagatell, Gina Mirigliani, Chrissa Patterson, Yadira Reyes, and Lisa Test, American Journal of Occupational Therapy, Vol. 64, November/December 2010, 895-903. Address: Nancy Bagatell, Quinnipiac University, 275 Mount Carmel Avenue, EC-OCC, Hamden, CT 06518, [email protected].