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Vestibular System

What is our vestibular system?

This is what gives us the ability to balance and perceive movement through the fluid in our semi-circular canals. This system also gives us spatial awareness and motion perception- this system is highly linked with the visual system. Therefore, difficulty with vestibular processing can affect visual tracking and visual attention.

Ways to provide your child with vestibular input:

  • Sit and Spin

  • Swings

  • Rocking

  • Slides

  • Monkey Bars

  • Balance Beam/Curb Walking

  • Wiggle Seats

  • Somersaults

  • Log Rolls

  • Scooter Board

  • Bike Riding

  • Wagon Rides

  • Hammocks

Vestibular input can be very overstimulating for some children. It is imperative to provide clockwise and counterclockwise rotational movements when you do spinning tasks. Anything with balance such as the balance beam and bike riding add some proprioceptive input; this can help the task to be more calming and organized than just swinging. Linear swing is a very calming task for most children as opposed to rotational swings such as a merry-go-round.

Here are some ideas for home:

This swing can be used in a variety of ways. The simplest way is to have your child in a sitting position with a soft and smooth linear swing. It can also be used with a child in prone (on stomach) you have them put their arms out as if they are flying like superman. It helps to build a child's core stability and strength by using their back flexors to hold their head and arms up. You can have a child reach for bean bags and throw at a target when on their stomach as well. Moving your child into a variety of positions in swings does help give a variety of vestibular input to a child.

This is a great option for a small house swing when you do not want to hang it from your ceiling. It can work best for smaller children - 5 and under depending on size. Children can sit, lay on their back, or stomach to give a variety of options as well.

These swings allow for linear input - the one thing to consider with this swing is that you can not close the door when it is hanging up. Therefore, it would work best in a door way that you don't need to open and close often or you would have to keep re-hanging. This is a good option in the winter or hot part of the summer when outside play is more difficult to get to each day.

This allows you to give your child rotational input in a clockwise and counter clockwise pattern. It can be done while standing for some children at a higher level, to work on balance and vestibular processing.

This toy is a great option for a wide variety of vestibular input. It can be used for spinning in both directions, and to "teeter" back and forth as if they are walking forward/backwards. It can also be used to help with standing as a balance task while catching a ball or other visual motor games.

These are wonderful options for the classroom or at home while doing homework. They allow a child to rock and spin for increased vestibular input. The wobble chair can be a great tool but if overused it can disorganize a child. When a child starts to fall off frequently or spinning without being able to pay attention it is best to change to a normal chair. Depending on the age of your child start with 5 minutes and watch for their cues to work up to more time on the wobble chair is advised. Signs that they have had enough vestibular would be continuing to fall off the chair, bouncing on the chair, unable to attend to a task due to movement on wobble chair and/or increased fidgeting with items in their environment.

Common Red Flags for Vestibular System Dysfunction:

  1. Gets car sick or motion sickness frequently

  2. Difficulty with balance and slow/controlled body movements

  3. Difficulty with posture and muscle tone such as low or high tone

  4. Difficulty with motor planning


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