BEEKMANTOWN - Take one wooden plank, a wooden dowel and voil - you've got a seat designed to help a child's posture and increase attention span.
Tani Bingham, an occupational therapist at Beekmantown Elementary School, has been utilizing "T-stools" to help students do just that. The simple devices, which Bingham described as a "one-legged stool," help the students by strengthening core muscles which can sometimes go unexercised as infants.
Children today aren't placed on their stomachs during their younger years as much as they once were, Bingham explained, theorizing it has much to do with the danger of sudden infant death syndrome, more commonly known as SIDS.
"Unfortunately, that is a very important developmental stage that increases those core muscles and prepares the child for sitting and anything core-related," said Bingham.
Children with weaker core muscles tend later to have difficulty maintaining proper posture while seated, leading them to slouch in their seat or "slump" over their desk, she said.
"What a T-stool does, because of the way you have to sit on it, is it constantly fires those core muscles. You have to sit up straight to stay balanced," Bingham explained. "Basically, it's like a little workout and it's increasing muscle strength."
As the muscles are exercised, electrical signals are sent to the brain, making the student more alert. This can be extremely beneficial for students diagnosed with conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, more commonly known as ADHD, though can be useful in helping a student with mild attention problems, said Bingham.
"It's like magic because a child that couldn't attend before is all of a sudden attending," she said. "The constant electrical impulses going off in their brain are waking them up."
When Bingham first started utilizing the T-stools for occupational therapy, she didn't have many at all.
"I had three of my own T-stools, but that's all I had," she said.
Once other teachers learned of the positive physical and educational benefits T-stools can have, the seats became quite the phenomenon, said Bingham.
"I convinced one teacher who had a student who couldn't attend to try it ... and for the very first time, that student was really paying attention to her, listening, learning and participating," she said.
The interest grew from there, and the teacher had her father build another dozen T-stools, which have begun to be used throughout the school. The idea is to eventually offer short-term use of the stools to help even more students, said Bingham. The stools would be used for roughly 20 minutes a day, as students first getting acclimated to them can be easily fatigued.
"Then we'd like to increase that time as the days go on," said Bingham. "We leave it up to the child. And, when the child knows how much it helps, it's amazing because they'll go get it themselves."
"The students are begging for them now and I've got teachers threatening me not to take them away [for other classes]," Bingham added with a laugh.
The popularity of the T-stools has led up to a workshop being hosted this Saturday, April 25, by the school's Family-School Organization, which aims to build another 125 tools for the students.
FSO representative Ricki L. Marin said wood for the T-stools has been generously donated by Lowe's and has even been pre-cut to the specifications needed. In addition, the FSO received other supplies necessary for building the T-stools at a substantial discount, she said.
"Basically, [the stools] just need to be put together and be polyurethaned," said Marin.
The FSO is seeking adult volunteers to lend a hand with the task this Saturday at the Beekmantown Volunteer Fire Department station on State Route 22, starting at 9 a.m.
"We thought it would be a good opportunity for any other parents who don't always have time to help out to come over," said Marin. "We're trying to get more men involved especially, like fathers and grandfathers. We thought this might be a good way by hosting a workshop where they could volunteer."
The workshop, she added, will last "until the job gets done or they get tired."
Those wanting to volunteer may contact Marin at 569-3130 or show up the day of the workshop.