Dr Child's Casebook: Measure for Measure
In our pursuit of ever greater heights, humans in industrialised nations have grown on average 4 inches taller over the last 150 years. Yet this height supremacy is often left unaccommodated in our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. The standard desk height has remained unchanged over the last 30 years which is an ergonomic nightmare for many. And the growth spurts that occur during childhood and adolescence are not obliged by the average-sized school furniture. Those with Marfan syndrome find their long legs crammed painfully under desks while their long backs are left unsupported by unsupportive chairs. A teacher wrote to Anne, worried about her Marfan pupil.
Q: I work in a large secondary comprehensive school in Hull. One of our pupils has Marfan Syndrome and is finding sitting at average-sized desks on average-sized chairs very uncomfortable. Do you know of a company who makes school furniture suitable for an extremely tall person?
A: Why does it have to be school furniture? Does the pupil stay in one classroom or does he/she change classes?
IKEA may do an inexpensive desk and chair. Perhaps the parents could help assemble. Try The Tall Persons’ Club website. They have a catalogue of suppliers. Other webistes of note that create adjustable furniture are edu-quip and those who cater for taller types Fine Back Furniture.
One parent cut 4 wooden blocks of 4x4 inches, for his son to put under the legs of his table at the beginning of each lesson. Then at the end of the lesson, the student collected them and moved to the next classroom to customise his desk, and so on.
A chair with good back support is similarly important as these young adults have long backs with poor muscle support, and cannot learn while slouching, and in pain. If he had an office chair on wheels, could he move it from room to room with him? Or keep one chair per floor, if you have no lift.
A lesson on tolerance of all health problems for the school may be a good addition to the curriculum, without mentioning any one individual. As you know, peers can be cruel with teasing and even bullying, so be on the lookout, as this student is now singled out.
We have a booklet written for young adults with Marfan syndrome, and another for teachers. If you send your address we would be happy to supply copies.
Thank you for understanding the problem and finding a practical solution.