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Adapted Rocking Chairs Help Calm Individuals with Disabilities
May 5, 2014
Source: Sunrise Group, FL
Gone are the days of only rocking back and forth for residents at North Florida’s Sunrise operations.
Occupational Therapist Louis Tornyai, along with interns from Keiser University, have created and modified rocking chairs that rock side-to-side, as well as swing forward and back. “We have many residents who appear to seek the centering and calming benefits achieved through the vestibular stimulation that is inherent with rocking”, said Louis. Some residents, particularly those with lower extremity deficits, were not able to lean back and push off the floor with their feet in order to operate a standard rocking chair.
About a year ago, Louis modified a rocking chair to rock side to side after noticing a resident who did this repetitively throughout the day in his wheelchair. The resident was unable to operate a standard rocking chair, and was damaging the lateral supports on his wheelchair. The side-to-side rocker accentuated what this resident was already seeking, and became a big success. So Louis began to think about others who might benefit from this. One gentleman in particular caught Louis attention because of his strong propensity to lean forward and back continuously throughout his day. He would often lean forward and would rarely sit straight up at a 90 degree angle—let alone lean back.
Louis began to look at gliders, which are rocking chairs with a swing arm mechanism to propel the user forward and back. “ I got the idea that a couple of residents with strong torso rocking patterns, might be able to rock back and forth with only subtle shifts of their upper body– particularly more likely if they already had a self-stimulation pattern occurring with upper body weight shifts”. Louis then found an outdoor patio rocker which required very little torso motion in order to get it swing forward and back without the use of ones feet.
Student interns from Keiser University have had a great opportunity to put their clinical reasoning skills to work since North Florida Director Jameson Dormann has created a new work space for designing and building numerous projects. Joseph Crunk, a recent intern from Keiser University, began to modify the glider for optimum safety. “I sanded down all the sharp edges, extended the base to reduce tipping potential, added a posterior strap to reduce excessive forward glide, and then covered the sides of the rocker to reduce the chance of limbs coming into contact with the glider mechanism”, said Joseph. In addition, the armrests were padded to create a softer resting area, as well as to build up some lateral support. A self-releasing waist belt was then added to provide improved pelvic positioning support.
Although both residents are non-verbal, their body language and a noted decrease in self–injurious behavior for one attests to the success of the adaptive rockers. “Data collection analysis showed that there was a decrease in the individuals frequency and intensity in self-injurious behavior,” replied Kristin Korinko, Board Certified Behavior Analyst with Sunrise. It appears as if the glider and side-to-side rocking chairs are providing a means of self-initiated calming through vestibular stimulation. Almost immediately, the individual who inspired Louis innovative design leaned all the way back in his gliding rocker. It was an instant success! Of course, “It may have be because he is more tired from all that rocking”, said Louis. “Either way, I think it has added greatly to the quality of peoples lives by maximizing an activity that already brings so much enjoyment.”
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