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Dear ADDitude: How Can My Child Get Out Excess Energy In Class?

“My son’s teachers complain that he’s disrupting the class by constantly rocking in his chair, a repetitive behavior that he uses to release energy and self-soothe. I don’t think he should be punished for this, but I’d like to suggest some more subtle replacements for the rocking. Any ideas?”

ADDitude Answers

It’s wonderful that your child is self-aware and understands what he needs. Rocking back and forth in the chair is sometimes not allowed for safety reasons, because the rocker could rock too far and end up on the floor. But there are ways to help your child. The teacher could provide him with movement breaks, when he is allowed to get up and move around to burn extra energy. If she is concerned about having him stand while the class is sitting, she could have the entire class stand up several times during the day to stretch. She could also have him run errands, bringing something to the office or getting a book from the library. Small fidget toys, such as stress balls, might help your child de-stress and let him self-soothe without rocking.

Posted by Eileen Bailey
Freelance writer, author specializing in ADHD, anxiety, and autism

ADDitude Answers

If the teacher feels rocking his chair is a safety issue (usually the reason it is not allowed), then she needs to offer him safe ways to move.

In first grade, my son had a taped rectangle around his desk. He was permitted to lay on the floor, stand up, or whatever he needed, as long as he and his belongings were in that taped area.

Movement breaks are also a common accommodation for students with ADHD.

A resistance band on the legs of his chair and/or desk could help with this too. Other common accommodations for the need for movement include: an actual rocking chair at the desk, an exercise ball chair at the desk, sending the student to run errands frequently (taking papers to the office, etc), and having the entire class do movement with lessons (helps all students learn better actually).

Here’s more on hyperactivity in the classroom.

Posted by Penny
community moderator, author on ADHD parenting, mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

A Reader Answers

Very simple, he should be allowed to rock in his seat! Why is this a problem?

Posted by Peacfldove

A Reader Answers

I agree. It shouldn’t be a problem, plus I would guess he’s hardly the only one doing it. Ask the teacher to give him access to fidget toys and allow him motor breaks. I can’t wait for the day my son can explain himself and his behaviors that way!

Posted by Sporty

A Reader Answers

You can get anything you want/need with a doctor’s note. He may need a 504 plan if he’s in public school. This will legally give him the right to “rock,” “wiggle,” and not have recess taken away. Hook up with an Occupational Therapist. This is what they do and it’s magic. Don’t give up and don’t stop. High school behaviors and self-esteem will be affected by this.

Also buy a yoga seat pad which encourages movement – but is safe and quiet.

Best of luck!

Posted by Lillian Shaw

A Reader Answers

Yay for self-perception! Rocking chair = safety hazard, so the teacher has the right and duty to address that. Is he allowed regular break times to, say, walk the corridors? Or develop a signal with the teacher so he is allowed to go off to wash his face or what not when the built-up energy is too much? Frequent breaks are a great accommodation and provide the as-needed flexibility to suit the child and the teacher/class.

Posted by eso

A Reader Answers

My son has the same problem – he has so much energy at school that he is disrupting his class. His teacher is going to try something called a t-stool with him, so hopefully that will help. I am also gonna get him a trampoline for home this week – I have thought about it before, and it seems like it will help him burn off some energy. Maybe you can try something similar.

Posted by stech04