Wrapped Legs Around Chair? A Sign of Weak Core Muscle that Causes Reading and Writing Delays
This article provides helpful information if your child wraps their legs around their chair due to weak core muscle or a retained STNR reflex. Affiliate links are included for your convenience. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.
It’s not uncommon to find kids fidgeting in their chair, swinging their legs or bouncing their feet to help sustain their focus and attention in class. Kids that can’t sit still are driven to move and have to move in order to learn. But what about kids that wrap their legs around their chair or other furniture? Is it a normal position some kids enjoy or is it a sign of a greater problem?
For some kids, wrapping their legs around the legs of their chair can be random, but for those that do it consistently, it is typically a sign of low muscle tone, weak core in your child’s trunk or even a retained Symmetrical Tonic Neck Response (STNR) primitive reflex. When children have not developed solid strength in the trunk of their body, sitting in a chair, especially for long periods of time is a struggle and can take all of their concentration and energy away from what is being taught in the classroom.
Children that find this position most comfortable above all other resting positions physically need this type of support to hold their body upright in their seat. If the child doesn’t have this type of support or strength in their core, they will often rock in their chair, lie on their desk or fall out of their chair. Wrapping their legs around their chair allows them to concentrate better and listen to the teacher’s instructions.
Why is wrapping legs around a chair tied to a retained STNR reflex?
A retained STNR reflex is one of the most common reflexes retained in children with learning challenges. Approximately 75% of children with learning challenges have an STNR reflex that can cause ADHD-type symptoms, fidgeting issues and behavioral problems in the classroom. So how does a retained STNR reflex make my child wrap their legs around their chair?
If the STNR reflex wasn’t integrated when the child was a baby, you will often find the child will slouch in their chair or rest their heads on their desk because the retained reflex has caused the child to have poor muscle control in the trunk and back of their body.
If the teacher asks the child to sit up in their chair or if the child needs to lower their head so they can take a test or write notes on their paper, the reflex is automatically activated and the child is forced to wrap their legs around their chair for greater balance so they can focus, concentrate and write on the paper in front of them. Wrapping their legs around their chair also prevents the reflex from forcing their legs to jut outward under their desk as they lower their head to read or write on their paper.
This is one of the reasons why a retained STNR reflex can cause delays in reading and writing. The child must first have control of their body before they can gain control over their head and body position (trunk and core) for reading and writing. To counteract these challenges, the child most likely prefers to do homework standing or laying down rather than sitting in a chair.
“The child with a retained STNR may exhibit hypotonicity (floppy muscle tone). As she grows, she may also display poor standing posture, including stooped shoulders, bent knees, and flexed hips. The child’s sitting posture may be poor as well, with the head lowering to the desk when working. She may sit back in the chair with her legs wrapped around the chair’s legs, or sit on her legs.” (Brandes, The Symphony of Reflexes)
Other signs of a retained STNR reflex or low muscle tone may include the following:
- Slumps or flops onto the table when writing or completing homework
- Uses elbows to support their body
- Leans with their stomach against the table (weak core)
- Walks with their tummies sticking out rather than “tucked under”
- Difficulty copying notes from the chalkboard
- Messy handwriting, incomplete notes and slow processing speed
- Trouble with eye tracking that often makes math homework difficult
How can I help my child in the classroom?
Children that continue to experience low muscle tone and weak core need gross motor activities and exercises to strengthen their bodies before they can improve their posture for reading, writing and taking notes in the classroom. You can find a number of these exercises in the Core Strengthening Exercise Program created by the Inspired Treehouse or others located here.
Additionally, you may potentially improve your child’s automatic response to wrapping their legs around their chair, by tying bounce bands or stretchy bands around the legs of their chair at school so they can bounce their feet on the bands when they are forced to lower their head for reading and writing.
If you are looking for other types of toys to strengthen your child’s weak core and trunk of their body, floor scooters, wobble cushions, peanut balls, and other core strengthening toys found here can be beneficial to improve their core stability for better attention and learning in the classroom.
Exercises for a Retained STNR Reflex
If your child has a retained STNR reflex, the core muscle activities and exercises above will help, but it will not fully correct the problem. Additional exercises that directly target the retained reflex must be included into your child’s daily routine to integrate the reflex properly so the child can more fully concentrate and learn in the classroom. To test your child for this reflex, click here.
If you have tested your child or student for the STNR primitive reflex and are sure they have retained it, your child may continue to show signs of poor posture, W-sitting, balance and coordination issues, wrapping their legs around their chair, and other learning problems in the classroom. To try more activities that may be beneficial for your child’s physical literacy, take the retained Primitive Reflexes e-Course.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
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