Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Happy Chair

Back in October I ran into a friend and her precious little special needs children.  We were all at Michelle's for movement therapy and their appointment was right after ours.  She brought in these fancy foam chairs for her kids (who are 2 and 4 and have multiple disabilities due to a genetic disorder) and her little one was actually sitting independently!!  Of course I asked her about these chairs, they were different from one another, but the fact that she was bringing them to therapy must have meant they were something amazing.  She called them Happy Chairs.

 This is Sadie trying out her friend's Happy Chair...this chair doesn't meet Sadie's needs

She gave me all the information and got me a phone number and the next week I called the A.D.A.P.T. Shop through Southwest Human Development.  The Adapt Shop helps children with special needs by creating adaptations to their equipment to help them function better.  And a Physical Therapist named Gayle has started working there to make these Happy Chairs out of foam and plastic.

The Happy Chair is made specially for each kiddo to meet the kid's needs.  It supports them where they need support, and doesn't where they don't.  It's purpose is to strengthen muscles and to increase the trunk control so that independent sitting can be achieved.  And they're free!!

(Here's a video clip from the local news showing these Happy Chairs, and actually showcases our friends who we saw that one day at Michelle's who told us about the Happy Chairs!)

It took until February for someone to call me to set up a time to come measure and evaluate Sadie.  Then I was told it would take 4-6 weeks for the technician to actually build the chair for Sadie out of foam.  But like with anything in the special needs world, we were prepared to be patient.

But, it was really hard to be patient for our Happy Chair because we were so excited.

Well, yesterday Gayle came back over and delivered our Happy Chair.  And it's as amazing as it's supposed to be.

Sadie's new Happy Chair
Sadie's Happy Chair is above the ground a little bit so her legs don't have to be straight.  However, that base is removable and eventually this will be more of a floor sitter.  The notches at her shoulders hold her a little more stable (to keep her from leaning...she's a leaner!), and the two things on the back are like a head rest.  But they're not that comfortable.  She can rest her head backward (notice when she was in her friend's chair she wanted to lean backward), but it's not really that comfortable, so she'll want to come right back up...I witnessed her do exactly that!  And there's a tray and an easel for her to interact with toys and activities and the ipad.
Sadie's first try in her own Happy Chair
Look how straight and big she's sitting!!  And she did this for about 30 minutes!
I really really really really really really want Sadie to be sitting independently, so I asked Gayle what was a reasonable timeline for expecting her to be strong enough to do it.  She didn't really give me an answer, of course, but she said that it depends on where kids start.  And she noted that Sadie already had some advantages, like not needing complete head support, and not needing hip stabilization in her seat.  I asked if it was reasonable to have the goal to be sitting by the end of the year, by her 3rd birthday, let's say?  She just kind of shrugged.  But I think that's a reasonable goal, considering what I've seen happen with our friends and how far they've come in their happy chairs.

By the time Sadie turns 3, I want her to be sitting independently.  And I think she can do it, too!

Sitting independently means potty training, it means baths, it means showers!, it means roller coasters!!!  It's kind of a big deal!  I will keep you posted for sure as we use our Happy Chair more and more. do I decorate this thing???


  1. What a great and affordable custom chair. I will never look at Styrofoam quite the same way again.

    Because the lines of the chair are so clean, could you use the chair itself to make a pattern for a slip cover for the top portion? It would take a bit of seaming, time and moderate sewing skills but it looks do-able.

    For the base how about a bed skirt type dust ruffle using a non skid fabric to put between the chair and base and attach the ruffle. If the chair is going to go with you to therapy, a washable fabric will help keep it clean and looking presentable a while longer too.

    If you do not want to take on a big sewing project, what about self stick vinyl or the sticky back stuff (contact paper?) used to line shelves. A textured wall paper might even do the trick. Most can even be wiped down with a damp cloth. Not sure how these would work in the seating area or where Sadie's arm will come in contact with the vinyl. Might be slippery.

    I keep trying to thing of things that are easy to cut and comes in lots of colors or crazy patterns. There are all kinds of colored duct tape that could be used to create a fun design on the non-touch parts of the chair.

    Another idea is using a spray adhesive to attach fabric to the chair. Or would that be to permanent?

    Whatever you use it sounds like a fun project.

  2. The foam the chair is made out of it actually pourous, so you can't paint it or stick anything to it or it will change its properties and actually make it hard. It's soft and squishy right now, we don't want to change that. But, you'll notice the one in the first picture that belongs to our friends has a fabric cover on it, I think I will try something like that...maybe even made out of PUL (the waterproof fabric that is used to make cloth diapers these days) since we were told it's not waterproof. Too bad since my kid's a puker!!

  3. I would think a nice cover with say PUL used in the seat area would be awesome. Now if I lived closer...

  4. CHristie, lay your fabric over the chair and pin away. Kinda like you are fitting clothing. It will be a challenge but start at the top and work your way down. You know if I was there that would be a fun time for me! Good luck and let me know how it goes.

  5. Oh Brooke, I wish you were here to help!! You're so talented with things like this! I may have to have a couple tries...the first may just end up being draped over the chair. Maybe though after making one cover, I'll realize what I need to do differently to make another!

  6. Stella has a consult with Gayle in a couple of weeks! I googled "happy chair" because I wanted to find out a little more about it and see what it looked like and it made me smile that your blog was one of the top five it lasted for me! Seeing Sadie sit so well in her happy chair is making me really excited to get one for Stella!!