HowdaHUGS as a sensory tool

HowdaHUG® seats are used and recommended by educational professionals around the world

My daughter absolutely loves her Howda chair! She uses it every day in class at circle time or when she needs to sit for extended periods. It helps her stay focused. We would highly recommend this chair to anyone, child or adult, for any reason.

K. Hurley, PARENT

Parents, teachers and therapists use and recommend HowdaHUG chairs for children with diagnosed and undiagnosed issues.

  • Postural support
  • Increased focus
  • Core strengthening
  • ADD and ADHD
  • Sensory processing disorders
  • Low tone and specific learning disabilities
  • Autism spectrum disorders

Benefits of the HowdaHUG in the classroom

  • Versatile – HowdaHUGs can be used on a variety of surfaces. They are a comfortable way to sit on the floor allowing for upright back support as well as rocking. They can also be used in many different types of chairs, including most school chairs. Ideal for bleachers, theater seats and the beach. We have even seen one used to adapt a sled!
  • Lightweight – HowdaHUGs weigh 2 lbs, making them easy for small children to carry with them.
  • Portable – HowdaHUGs are easy to roll up and carry along wherever you go. They can go from one classroom to the next, on fieldtrips, to restaurants, to concerts, to therapy sessions, or wherever they are needed. When rolled they provide their own carrying handle. They can be stored flat, taking up very little space in the classroom, at home or in the car.
  • Durable – HowdaHUGs (and our HowdaSeats) are made of durable cotton canvas and American basswood. Basswood is hardwood and although durable it is not heavy. This combination of material allows for the chairs to be lightweight, yet very strong. The HUG1 and HUG2 also have an extra layer of reinforcing cushion on the outside bottom hinge to accommodate the aggressive rocking some children need and to also protect the canvas.
  • Medication-free alternative  – HowdaHUGs allow for children to move while seated. Many children need to move in order to focus and have a productive flow of ideas. This seating alternative helps to promote a medication-free approach to the needs of children who benefit from movement during the school day.
  • Visually appealing – HowdaHUGs come in a range of colors from bright primaries to calming shades and neutrals.

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Tipping

HowdaHUGs are a great way to allow a child to move without being disruptive. One of the first things most children will do in their HUG is tip backwards, because they have not yet learned how to balance the chair. Most children will “fall” all the way back (and often enjoy sticking their feet up in the air). Tipping all the way back and coming back up independently or with assistance is a great core strengthening exercise.

Rocking and balancing

Once children get the hang of tipping back without falling over, they can learn to balance and rock comfortably. This can be very calming for many children and the movement is so subtle that is does not disrupt others during circle time. When rocking or balancing, the more a child pushes against the HUG, the more proprioceptive (deep pressure) input they receive.

Safety first!

In order to reduce the possibility of injury, an adult may want to sit with a child the first time they try out the HUG. Sitting the child in front of a wall or a large floor cushion will allow the child to tip back without getting hurt. The floor pillow is often the best thing to place behind a child because they can then tip all the way back and experience the sensation of “how far is too far” and “how do I problem-solve getting back up”.

Additional sensory input (fleece liner and cap cover)

  • In addition to the HowdaHUG, Howda Designz makes two types of fleece liners for the seats. One is a shearling cap that fits over the top edge of the chair. The other is a shearling liner that hooks over the top and bottom edges and lines the whole seat (see photo). For children who want or need softer input or more of a cuddle sensation, the fleece liners are a great addition to the HowdaHUG experience.
  • If a child needs additional deep pressure while in the HowdaHUG, we recommend using a weighted lap pillow. This type of weighted item will not interfere with how the HowdaHUG fits the child and gives even more comfort, especially if the lap pad is made with interesting material that the child can rub for tactile input.

Using the HowdaHUG in a chair

  • Many children who sit in regular school chairs constantly squirm and rock the whole chair backwards. Using the HowdaHUG in a school chair allows for rocking in the chair so that the chair itself stays stationary. This can greatly reduce the possibility of injury from tipping chairs and damage to chairs from falling onto the floor. To allow for rocking in the HowdaHUG on a chair, cinch the chair closed slightly more than the position of the HUG when used on the floor. Then place the HUG on the chair, but leave 3 or 4 inches of space between the back of the HUG and the back of the chair. This will allow the child to rock back slightly in the HUG on the chair, but will encourage the child not to tip the whole chair over.
  • In terms of fitting in a chair, it generally works best if the chair is at least as wide as the HowdaHUG and does not have a significant dip in the back. The seat can be slanted back, but those with a large concave area often do not accommodate the Howdas as well. We have used them in a variety of cloth, wood and plastic chairs with success. You also want to make sure that your child’s sitting balance is good and that if the seat of the chair is very slippery, you put some kind of non-slip material under the HowdaHUG like shelf liner (which you can find at most major home good retailers or grocery stores.)

*Compiled by Gloria Breton, OTR/L, a consultant who offers expertise in working with special needs children and with HowdaHUGs in the classroom.

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