what’s so bad about w-sitting?

by Anne

What’s so bad about w-sitting?” the national debate continues with this question taking over social media like a storm. It seems that this has been one of the most frequently shared subjects on Facebook, Pinterest and in Blogs during the past few months – other than the never ending round of cat videos that is… While Physical Therapists have been actively speaking out against it, The Today Show even weighed in on the debate recently quoting experts saying there is really no need to worry about w-sitting in your child. As a pediatric orthotist specializing in gait and biomechanics, an adult who experienced gross motor delays as a young child and continues to experience low muscle tone and a hypermobility syndrome in my late 40s, I thought I would share my own thoughts on the subject.

I agree with the majority of pediatric physical therapists who believe that w-sitting has negative consequences in young children with physical disabilities. W-sitting is a compensation for low core strength and while it is helpful in achieving independent sitting initially, it becomes a habit that is difficult to break over time. I know because I w-sat until I was 23. I never remember anyone telling me not to sit this way, until I was in a Patient Evaluation Course learning how to test range of motion and muscle strength in my Prosthetics and Orthotics Program. When the PT teaching the class noted my excessive internal rotation of my hip and my limited external rotation of my hip, her first question was “Do you w-sit?” Her next comment was “Stop!”

W-sitting allows a child to sit without activating their abdominal muscles. In the w-sitting position, a child does not move across midline, shift their weight or actively rotate their trunk. A typical child will often move in and out of w-sitting with few negative side effects. However, for a child with gross motor delays who spends the majority of time sitting in a w-sitting position, this can lead to poor development of bilateral coordination (important for fine motor development and more advanced gross motor skills), decreased strengthening of their core muscles, their shoulders and their pelvis and poor development of balance strategies.

Surestep has a product to help break the habit of w-sitting. The Criss Crossers are lycra pants with a unique sensor system which provides an auditory reminder to the child, their family and/or their teachers & caregivers to encourage them to change their sitting position. These pants work best for children who are able to sit independently, are completely independent in their walking (with or without an assistive device) and are able to respond to the auditory cue. Criss Crossers should be worn snugly against the skin to decrease activating the sensors when playing on the floor or sitting in a chair. Criss Crossers do not interfere with any other sitting position and are easily worn under other clothing. Daily use can help the child break the w-sitting habit and encourage better gross motor development. Criss Crossers can be purchased directly from Surestep by parents, therapists or orthotists.

Learn more about w-sitting