Friday, February 11, 2011

Vestibular Activities

       The vestibular system helps us know where our bodies are in space and provides a sense of balance and posture. As we move about, our eyes and ears take in sensory information and send it to the brain. The vestibular system is made up of 3 fluid filled canals, a “sack-like” structure, and a “pouch-like” structure, and all of these components work together to respond to movement, gravity, and changes in direction and in head position. The visual system works in conjunction with the vestibular system, allowing both eyes to work together and contributing to smooth eye movements. The proprioceptive system also plays a role in this process (which I will discuss in more detail in another post). As the brain coordinates all of this input, this provides a foundation for the timing and spatial orientation of our movements, allowing us to navigate our environment in a coordinated manner. In one way or another, this system influences everything we do. Think of the vestibular system as functioning like a switchboard, directing individual sensations where and when to go or stop. Considering all of the important functions of this system, it is quite apparent why a vestibular problem can lead to many problems that impact daily functioning.

Signs of Poor Vestibular Processing include: 

  • Motion Sensitivity 
  • Clumsiness- difficulty learning to ride a bicycle, hopping, and stair climbing  
  • Low Muscle Tone  
  • Visual-Spatial Problems  
  • Poor Eye-Hand Coordination  
  • Fear of Heights  
  • Dizziness and/or Nausea
Vestibular Activities: Movement experiences are very important for the vestibular system during development, especially those that are child-directed rather than passive. Here are some ideas to help with vestibular functioning:

  • Encourage activities in which the child is positioned on the stomach, holding the head in an upright position
  •  Playground equipment – merry-go-rounds, slides, swings, teeter totter jungle gym, monkey bars 
  • Rides at amusement parks  
  • Jumping (games like leap frog), hopping, skipping  
  • Balance games- walking on a line, twister, skating and bike riding  
  • Spinning games- sit-n-spin, swing (never twirl or spin a child for prolonged periods of time as this can impact heart and breathing rates; let the child direct the spinning if possible)  
  • Jump rope games  
  • Tumbling- somersaults, rolling in all directions  
  • Slow rocking – over a therapy ball, in a rocking chair, on a rocker, rocking horse  
  • Obstacle courses that incorporate lots of head and body movements
photostock photo from

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  1. I am enjoying your blog very much, lots of good information. I would love to see tips on fine motor skills, or building core strength. (If you are taking requests). My granddaughter is 3 years old and has Athetoid Cerebral Palsy. I love to look for games or exercises that help these skills. Thank you, :)

  2. I will be posting some suggestions on those topics very soon! (I'm always taking requests) I'm planning on finishing up this series on sensory processing first. So glad your enjoying the blog! :)

  3. Thank you very much . your article helped me to provide valuable inputs to a mom whose son is in my class( i teach in kindergarten). we've been noticing few important signs and had to counsel the mother so that the child gets the necessary help as early as possible.

  4. Regarding vestibular activities, are you going to explain linear vs horizontal vs rotary movements? How each activate and therefore create different responses in children? Followed why we might chose one direction over another (e.g., rotary vs linear) to produce particular outcomes? Thank you, Jeanette

  5. Your blogs and every other content are thus interesting and helpful it makes me return back again.freenotes harmony park

  6. What can you tell me about a pre school child who does not like her head inverted over a therapy ball but tolerates prone prop on forearms on the floor and is able to wheelbarrow walk? What does it impact? What can I do to help facilitate her tolerating and enjoying this position?