Independent sitting requires strong neck, shoulder, and core muscles. It also requires balance and good proprioception (feedback from joints and muscles to your brain). Vision can also play a role in developing sitting skills. A key goal for sitting is to be able to use your arms, hands, legs, feet and head while in that position. This requires a lot of practice using and coordinating movements in various sitting postures.
In the earliest stages of development nondisabled children take anywhere from 4 to 9 months learning to sit independently. For children with significant disabilities this can be a much longer process. They need regular and systematic support to achieve this very important skill. Active Learning, because of its intensive focus on movement, can help work on this important skill outside of specific therapy time, increasing the practice time so necessary for the student.
Your physical therapist is an invaluable support in developing a plan to work on sitting. Discuss strategies and activities that will meet your individual child’s needs. Here are just a few ideas to show that working on sitting can be done in a variety of environments and activities:
- Spend time working in prone on a Support Bench to increase core and shoulder muscle strength and improve head control.
- While positioned on his/her back, have the learner reach up for objects overhead using a Little Room, Mobile, or Echo Bucket.
- From lying or supported sitting, reach up and clasp an adult’s hands to play hand games.
- sitting on an ESSEF board and playing with items on an Activity Wall,
- shifting weight to maintain an upright position in a HOPSA dress,
- sitting in front of or in the lap of an adult and rocking side-to-side and forward-backward, or
- lying on his back and coming to sitting with support (check with your PT about specific strategies).
Sitting on an ESSEF BoardPart of learning to sit upright is being able to shift your balance in a seated position. Using an Essef Board is one way to practice this skill as the child has to work to maintain balance on the board as he moves his legs and arms. Photo courtesy of the Narbethong State School in Queensland, Australia.
Sitting on a Therapy BallWhile the child is sitting on a therapy ball and bouncing, hang objects in front so the child can reach out to engage with them.
Video demonstration of the therapy ball activity
Video demonstration of play while sitting on a Resonance Board
Video example of play with skates while sitting in a chair
Kayden Sitting on DrumsDescription: In this video we see a 5-year-old girl seated on a stack of two gathering drums. After playing with the drums, she is introduced to a Meinl Helix Bowl, which she explores.