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  • Writer's pictureAnnmarie DeMarco

Sensory Systems: The vestibular system.

Updated: Feb 3, 2021

Photo from: Amazon (HearthSong SkyCurve Weather-Resistant Platform Tree Swing)

Our vestibular system is located in our inner ear; it helps with balance, movement, postural control, & muscle tone. It is also closely linked to our visual system as it facilitates development of good visual skills.

Vestibular input varies on an individual basis. The rule of thumb is that linear movement ( back and forth) is calming. Usually it offers predictable, organized movement that most kiddos enjoy; even if they are sensitive to movement.

Rotary input is more alerting along with inversion activities & even rough and tumble play. It is less unpredictable and more of a drastic head position change (remember this system is located in the inner ear) so this type of input can cause a child to become overstimulated after the activity.

Think about your own vestibular system... do you experience motion sickness? Or can you go to an amusement park, go on every ride, and feel great?!

If your child is a vestibular seeker (they crave vestibular input) it is ok to give it to them! However, this input needs to be provided in an organized manner or it can have adverse effects.

If your child avoids vestibular input, it is also ok to introduce movement to them in a slow, predictable manner. For my kiddos that do not like movement, I will usually start by holding them and applying medium pressure (proprioception) while I slowly tilt them side to side and play peek-a-boo. Providing proprioception can regulate the vestibular system a bit more since it is calming and my little ones are usually more likely to engage in movement.

Here are some vestibular activities to try at home:

Blanket swing while you sing to them. (Make sure they can see out of the swing and start by sitting up! Their head position & vision is KEY to this activity working and making them comfortable!)

Ride on toy

Sitting in a rocking chair while you sing a song to them or count.

Bouncing/sitting on a therapy ball.

Have you child sit in a laundry basket or on a blanket and pull them.

Ring around the Rosie (make sure you alternate directions)

Sit and spin(again alternate directions)

Blanket swing: If your little one is comfortable, you can close the top of the blanket swing (so they cannot see out of the swing) and encourage them to lie down (different head position), while swinging them a bit more intensely back and forth.

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