The “W” sitting position in young children.

Lying, rolling, sitting-up, crawling; infants go through a host of developmental stages before they develop the coordination, muscle tone and strength to finally walk. Each motor stage milestone emerges once the previous is matured and mastered.

Over the years, we have seen children with various levels of coordination, gait, posture and balance. It is not uncommon to see children sitting in the “W” position: when a child sits with their knees bent and tucked under them in a ‘W” configuration. However, from a physiological and developmental perspective, it is something that we should be aware of.

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Children often prefer to sit in this way because it creates a wider support basis and greater stability of the hips and torso. This helps seated children balance better when playing, reaching out or moving. So what is the problem, then? Actually the issue with “W sitting” is that it decreases the need for “trunk control”; the ability children have to shift their weight and ultimately impairs “trunk rotation”. Trunk rotation is vital for stretching movements when reaching to grasp or catch objects with one or both hands, for actions that require balance such as skipping, as well as midline crossing crossing arms from one side to another. Midline crossing is necessary for developing hand preference/dominance necessary for advanced level skills such as handwriting and reading.

Habitually sitting in the “W” position may also impact the way muscles of the hips and legs develop (shortening and tightening); often leading to children who are pigeon-toed or walk on their toes.

As educators, it is important to take note of children who prefer to sit in this potion as it may be the tell-tale sign of other underlying issues; children with hyper-mobility of the joints and sensory processing disorder. It may also indicate the retention of developmental reflexes such as the Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR) - a transitional reflex which helps children move on from the stage of lying on the floor to crawling or the tonic labyrinthine reflex related to balance, muscle tone and proprioception. Reflexes such as these which remain unintegrated may manifest in later childhood as poor posture, poor muscle tone, difficulty in sitting still, challenges with reading and writing, poor hand/eye coordination, focusing on a task and vision disorders.

Naturally, it is easier to correct the “W” sitting position before it becomes habitual. Together, parents and school should be aware of it and encourage children to sit in alternate positions: side sitting, long sitting or cross-legged sitting.

The role of nursery should be so much more than just a play area to socialise. Good nurseries in Dubai will have teachers with an experienced and sensitive eye who will be able to pick up and communicate physical nuances that need to be addressed consistently so that nursery and the home environment can create a strong support network. For more information regarding unintegrated reflexes please refer to Kinesiology Dubai's Website or alternatively contact the office.

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