W-Sitting and Sensory Processing
The w-sit pattern is an impressive act. Parents and caregivers are often so proud of the flexibility of the child. This flexibility is impressive, but it’s often a substitute for using trunk (back) muscles and balance skills that a child can be supporting and continuing to develop. And in a past video, I have stressed the importance of trunk strength in fine motor skill support.
W-Sitting Hurts a Child’s Vestibular System Development
A child that uses a w-sit on a consistent basis is missing out on the development of trunk strength and balance skills (vestibular system). When a child is sitting in a w-sit position, they can then use their skeleton to make a wide base, then they lose their balance and strength when they’re sitting. And as a child is inactive in these areas, they then seek greater amounts of this input later in the day. For example, they may seek to use their vestibular system such as spinning or climbing to make up for the input lost when they’re sitting. You may think this sitting position isn’t a big deal because they are sitting for a short period of time, however, when a child sits this way every day, the effects becomes more significant.
A Solution to Helping a Child Out of W-Sitting
When I am helping a child into a more effective sitting position, I will tell them what I am going to do saying something like, ”Let’s move your legs.” If I’m new in a room, I will train a person who the child is familiar with to assist them. I will tell the teacher to lift them by the belt loop or waist of their pants and move one foot under them. That puts them in a side sitting position or they can put both feet under them.
It may take a while for the child to be comfortable with these positions. Just be consistent with helping them and they will develop the skills to sit without the w-sit.
As always, ask for help from an occupational therapist or physical therapist on your team for assistance if you need it. If you’re noticing a child won’t work out of their w-sit over time, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me for more solutions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To summarize, a w-sit pattern though impressive is not a supportive position for trunk (back) strength and balance skill development.Thank you for tuning in and thank you for working with kids!