“Sit up straight!” That’s something you may have heard you mother or grandmother say. They probably thought sitting or standing up straight made you look better than slouching. Chances are they didn’t know it, but they were onto something much more important. This is especially true for people who have difficulty with fine motor tasks and attention.
The position of the pelvis in sitting can affect numerous body functions in typically developing children and adults. The effect can be even more significant for people who have fine motor, coordination or attention concerns.
The ideal position of the pelvis in sitting is a position of neutral to somewhat anterior tilt, meaning straight above the hips or slightly leaning over the hips. Think of this in terms of the activities you perform in various positions. When you are relaxing on the couch watching TV, most people are sitting with a posterior pelvic tilt. They may even put their feet up which moves the pelvis even farther in a posterior direction. Now consider sitting at a table eating soup or playing a game like Jenga. Without thinking you will likely move your pelvis into a position of neutral to slightly anterior tilt. The reason is you have placed greater demands on your fine motor skills and this position of your pelvis creates stability through your body for better control of your arms, hands and fingers. Your body (and brain) instinctively knows this position is an active position; a position from which you are engaging in something more demanding. As a result, your brain responds by making you more alert and giving you improved concentration.
The reverse is also true. When relaxing on the couch with a posterior position of the pelvis you are more likely doze off during a slow part of the show you are watching. There are several ways to help achieve this position of the pelvis. They include thing like sitting on an exercise ball or a downward sloping wedge or even sitting on the edge of a chair or sitting on a chair backwards. Keep in mind this is an active position and may be difficult to maintain for long periods of time. Used when demands are high however, this position can help to enhance performance and attention.
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-Arlen Klamm, OTR/L, ATP/SMS, Lifescape
Registered Occupational Therapist
Certified Assistive Technology Professional
Certified Seating and Mobility Specialist