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Bigger kids need bigger stuff

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Hum    6,930

As children are getting bigger, their clothing, their furniture and other objects that support their weight must also expand.

Seventeen percent of children are obese, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And one in three kids is obese or overweight. The rate of childhood obesity has tripled to the point that pediatricians say growth charts no longer apply to today's kids.

To accommodate larger kids, some schools have instructions for teachers to provide separate chairs and desks for students who cannot fit into the pupil chairs. And school furniture makers are increasing the size of chairs and desks to accommodate larger students.

"Other students snickered as I would try to get out of my chair," LeBaron recalled. "You could hear them snickering. You don't forget how that feels -- that embarrassment and that redness in your face."

Being set apart from peers by sitting in a different chair means "their peers recognize them as large, different," said Dr. Phil Wu, a pediatrician who leads Kaiser Permanente's pediatric obesity prevention and treatment effort.

"At all ages, kids don't want to feel different," Wu said. "They get ostracized by the peers in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. It's more of that social psychological impact that's insidious in a way that's more profound than what the child might experience than sitting in a standard seat."

Newer student desks with adjustable heights can accommodate bigger bodies. The student seats are designed to look just like the other ones, so they don't make obese students appear different from their peers.

"That is an obesity trend reflected in the furniture," said Tom Brennan, president of School Outfitters, which sells school furniture. "For perspective, when we look at import product from China, you can tell the difference from the China market and the U.S. market. The buckets are generally not wide enough. They have to be designed specifically for the U.S."

Shawn Green, vice president of design and product marketing for KI, a company that designs and manufactures school and hospital furnishings, said the diameter of the metal, the supporting structure and the width, depth and height of school chairs have to be modified to work in the American market.

Chairs made for older and bigger students are being used in middle and elementary schools to comfortably fit overweight and obese students. Schools prefer the "big and tall" sizes for educational furniture, said Tony Ellison, CEO of, which sells office and school furniture.

In the past five years, the biggest seats have been selling better than the standard sizes, he added. These items also cost more.

It's not just school desks that don't fit.

A 2005 Pediatrics study found limited child safety seats for the increasing number of obese young children.

"There was a risk of kids not being covered for safety," said the study author, Lara McKenzie. "If there are bigger kids, maybe there are some safety devices or equipment that wouldn't fit them properly."

The study suggested that car seats should maximize "the protection of obese children." Another study in 2009 suggested that most children in the study were too heavy to be compliant with child safety seat laws. :huh:

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