Why do children W-sit?

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Why do children W-sit?

W sitting can be a sign of low muscle tone as it requires less muscle strength and is therefore easier to balance. They W-sit because it is easier for them, and they can get away with playing on the floor without having to cross the mid-line. It takes a massive amount of core strength to sit “criss-cross applesauce” or other ways of sitting on the floor in where you can rotate your trunk and cross the mid-line of the body to move around.

In this position, a child’s base of support is wider and his centre of gravity is lower, allowing for the increased stability through the hips and trunk. It’s a convenient position for play because children do not have to work on keeping their balance while also concentrating on the toys. It also gives them proprioceptive feedback in limbs and joints that they may not otherwise feel.

Low muscle tone can be related to sensory challenges and children with autism signs of this are they are often floppy and tire easily. They require more energy to move their bodies because the muscle fibres and brain synapses are not there or not functioning properly – just sitting up for them can feel like they ran a mile.  If it takes so much energy for them just to sit up, can you imagine the energy required for them to ride a bike or run or simply hold a pencil? So a child with low tone is going do W-sitting, because they can sit and play longer without feeling exhausted. They can focus less on balancing and using their muscles and more on playing.

Children with low tone are often very clumsy, falling or bumping into things and can have gross motor or fine motor delays. Just like babies are little geniuses in figuring out the easiest and most reliable way to be fed in order to survive, children are geniuses at compensating for their weaknesses to get by.

The mid-line of the body is an imaginary line down the centre of your body that creates the left and right sides of your body.  Children who W-sit, often do so, so they can avoid crossing the mid-line. Many children with autism or sensory processing disorder have trouble crossing their midline, ie. bringing an arm or leg across the line to the other side of the body, or even reading across a page with both eyes. children who find crossing the mid-line difficult usually compensate by turning their entire body or their head to reach for something instead of simply reaching across their body to get it.   They may also scoot their left hand and body further to the left, so that the right hand doesn’t need to cross the mid-line as they are writing.  They’ve learned that when they move their whole self, they no longer need to overreach their limits.

This is also why it is really important for babies to not skip or speed through the crawling stage. Crawling is an important way a child can set up neurological pathways for later crossing the mid-line activities.

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