Alicia Fedewa, Matthew A. C. Davis, Soyeon Ahn; Effects of Stability Balls on Children’s On-Task Behavior, Academic Achievement, and Discipline Referrals: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Am J Occup Ther 2015;69(2):6902220020. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.014829
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OBJECTIVE. We used a randomized controlled design to investigate whether using stability balls during the school day was associated with higher levels of on-task behavior and academic achievement and fewer discipline referrals.
METHOD. Over 9 mo, students in 2 second-grade classrooms in a southeastern rural elementary school used stability balls as chairs while students in 2 control classrooms used chairs as usual. We collected measures of on-task behavior, standardized measures of literacy and mathematics achievement, and discipline referrals.
RESULTS. We found similar levels of on-task behavior and achievement in treatment and control classrooms and a downward trend in disruptive behaviors in treatment classrooms.
CONCLUSION. This study did not find use of stability balls for entire general education classrooms to be a practical use of resources for schools. More research with rigorous controlled designs is needed to support the use of stability balls for the general education population.
Does the use of stability balls during the school day result in higher levels of on-task behavior for children in the treatment classrooms?
Does the use of stability balls during the school day result in higher levels of mathematics and literacy achievement for children in the treatment classrooms?
Do discipline referrals decrease in the treatment classrooms where children are using stability balls in lieu of chairs?
The use of stability balls in the classroom setting in lieu of chairs may be effective in reducing student discipline referrals. Stability balls potentially provide needed physical activity, which can increase positive classroom behaviors, fitness, and mental health.
Additional research is needed to confirm our finding that children who sat in chairs had higher levels of on-task behavior, but at this time the evidence indicates that stability balls are most beneficial for students with attention or behavioral difficulties or those with ASD. At the second-grade level, the use of stability balls for entire general education classrooms has not yet been shown to be a practical use of school resources.
Despite the academic achievement benefits associated with physical activity such as stability ball use, the current evidence does not promote the use of stability balls to improve students’ achievement levels in math and literacy. Although stability balls did not adversely affect children’s achievement outcomes, the lack of significant difference in children’s achievement scores provides no support for occupational therapists to promote using stability balls as a means to improve academic outcomes for a general education population.
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