In the therapy world, the ability to squat is a critical skill that demonstrates strength, balance and muscle coordination. In many cultures outside the US, squatting is a position used for eating and toileting throughout the life span. Squatting helps kids to transition from standing to the ground and develop body strength for higher skills. Toddlers do this many times a day. And yet, I notice, that adults without developmental disability and youth with developmental problems lose this skill. When is it that people lose this skill? I haven't seen any studies on this, but ask any cross fit trainer, and I bet they will tell you this is a movement most people are missing. In the fitness world, people argue whether the back squat or deadlift is the best indicator of body strength. For youth with disabilities, I think the squat is the most critical. Youth who cannot do this likely do not have the body strength, coordnination and balance prerequisites necessary for fitness. When performing vocational tasks, they will be unable to do anything that is below their knees: picking up items from the floor, stocking shelves, reaching for objects below waist level. No one will hire you for a job if you can only do half the work...
I found 2 great resources to support examination of this area for physical therapists.
1. Greg Myer, PhD, CSCS*D and colleagues have developed a tool to help you assess biomechanics of squatting here.
2. Need to teach proper squat biomechanics? Dr. Aaron Horshig, DPT, describes the steps here.
When you are working with youth with disabilities, examine their squat biomechanics. Consider their overall fitness, squatting ability, and relationships to their neuromuscular attributes (balance, strength, range of motion) to their ability to form functional tasks. See a gap? Remediate, support and put this in their plan of care so that they can improve their ability to perform functional tasks.
In the next blog I will discuss motor learning strategies for people with developmental disabilities to help you do this. Happy squatting :)