Sometimes, you just need a little help from your friends. Fortunately, I usually recognize when I have hit that point and am lucky enough to have some incredible friends. One of those amazing supports is the Occupational Therapist at my school. While she works primarily with the student population in our autism program, she is a great resource when I need to figure out an accommodation for a student that will help him or her be more successful.
A few years ago, I reached out to her for suggestions on ways that I might support a student who has great cognitive abilities but who was not seeing success to match his abilities. The primary cause for the disconnect between his ability and his performance was distractability. He had trouble initiating tasks. He was frequently off-task. He frequently engaged in off-topic conversations. He was in constant motion. He did not have a particular diagnosis or a 504 plan and that was not a direction his parents were inclined to pursue.
This is what my friend suggested. I used a black theraband to create something that he could push on or bounce on with his feet. This gave him the chance to engage gross motor skills which seemed to help him focus, which in turn led to much greater academic success.
To make this, I folded the theraband in half and tied a knot. Then, I wrapped it around the outside of the desk legs and tied it in place. The key is to have the theraband stretched pretty taught and to have the knots pretty tight. (It takes some real effort to get it tight enough.) It should also be fairly low, about 7 or 8 inches from the ground. A black theraband works best because it is stronger. (I am using a blue one this year because that is what was available.) The person sitting at the desk can put his or her feet on the band and push on it or the can put their feet under the band and pull on it. In either case, he or she is engage gross motor skills that seem to help some students concentrate better.
While I don’t have enough data points to claim any statistical improvement, I can say anecdotally that it has helped considerably with students in my classes. The students are able to maintain more focus, leading to increased academic success. It is an accommodation I can do with minimal effort and that does not require me to deal with the distractions that always seem to come along with fidget devices. Students like it (even those who don’t need it but sit in the desk during other periods). I am a big fan of this simple little theraband.