As I learned in The Sensory Integrative Perspective Course, The vestibular system is like a news reporter. It reports new information as we move and as fibers in the ear change.
The vestibular system also works with other related sensory systems including:
- vestibular/auditory integration
- vestibular/visual integration
- vestibular/proprioceptive integration
1. Gravitational Insecurity - The child has an "irrational" fear of falling during various types of movement. This may be when they are lifted in space, are flipped upside down, attempt jumping off of a curb or step. They do not like sudden movements and tend to move slowly and cautiously.
2. Intolerance to movement - The child vomits or has an upset stomach in a moving vehicle or becomes very upset with movement. These children may be considered Hyperresonsive (overresponsive) to movement.
3. Poor Registration or Hyporesponsiveness (underresponsive) to movement - Children often "seek" out input (jumping, spinning, swinging back and forth). They have difficulties holding still, show poor postural accommodations, are challenged with spatial orientation.
4. Decreased vestibular-ocular responses - poor eye movements and poor processing of visual input. For example, when the head moves right, the eyes move left, preserving the image on the center of the visual field.
5. Inadequate postural-ocular control - decreased extensor tone, poor concentration, decreased shoulder stability and eye-hand coordination, poor eye tracking, decreased stabilization of the head/neck/eyes/trunk.
6. Poor laterality, bilateral integration and sequencing - difficulties coordinating two sides of the body to work together, decreased ability to coordinate rhythmic sequences of movement, difficulties with symmetrical movements of both sides of the body (for example standing with right arm and right leg in front, jumping and switching so left arm and left leg are in front and then alternating in a smooth, rhythmic pattern), challenges with asymmetrical movements of both sides of the body (same as above, but begin with left arm and right leg - asymmetrical)
Here is an example of how a child with challenges related to their vestibular system may have adversities to handwriting. Vestibular processing affects spatial organization needed for writing; directionality, right/left issues. They may be unable to coordinate both sides of the body to perform writing, for example, hold the paper with one hand and write with the other, or as mentioned above, bilateral coordination. Decreased extensor tone inhibits overall muscle tone, proximal stability and postural control, all needed to sit with an upright posture and engage in the fine motor act of handwriting. Finally, vestibular input can also impact head and eye coordination necessary for writing.
It is also important to consider inter-related or alternative reasons why children are having difficulties that may present themselves as challenges with vestibular functioning:
- Limited experience or exposure
- Neuromotor impairment
- Muscle weakness
- Decreased range of motion
- Visual or hearing impairment
- Emotional Disorder (ED)
- Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)
- Swinging - the fastest and most effective way to provide vestibular input. Swinging in an orbital or circular motion is generally excitatory for the nervous system. Swinging in a slower, linear plane (front to back or up and down) is generally more calming for the nervous system).
- Rolling in a barrel or rolling down a hill
- Sliding down a slide
- Bouncing or jumping on a ball or trampoline
- Amusement rides