Our Hidden Senses Part 2

Vestibulation plays a major role in adults and children’s lives. Common movements such as spinning, jumping, nodding and shaking our head all make up part of our Vestibular system. Our vestibular relates to the movement of our head and is triggered when we change the position of our heads. It gives information to our body about where we are in space, how we are moving and helps to support our balance and muscle tone.

How does it impact children?

  • Children have poor balance and have difficulty using balance equipment on the playground or in PE.
  • They may appear clumsy, fall or bump into nearby objects or people.
  • They may have difficulty with movements involving bilateral and hand eye coordination, such as throwing and catching a ball or completing a dance.
  • Without fulfilling our Vestibular sense, a child’s attention and focus can be impacted so that it is difficult to concentrate on a task.

A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that on average children spend 85% of their waking hours seated. This has led to a rise in ADHD diagnosis, the need for fiddle tools and movement/sensory breaks and teacher reports of children being unable to attend.

We have good news! Our Vestibular sense can be fulfilled and regulated to help a child balance, attend and regulate through their everyday environments.

How can it be regulated through Occupational Therapy?

  • As Vestibulation results from movement and positioning of our head, we can focus on the child moving their head in a number of different ways. Some vestibular activities can heighten a child and so it is important to do activities with guidance and care.
  • Up and down or side to side movements of the head are crucial for regulation.
  • Activities include: jumping, running, changing positions frequently and doing somersaults.
  • Other activities can help contribute to the Vestibular sense by encouraging bending down and picking up objects (such as a nature scavenger hunt, packing up toys or looking for objects).

How often should a child complete these activities?

  • We recommend that Vestibular movements be completed regularly throughout the day.
  • This depends on the child’s age and level of arousal.
  • For younger children, more vestibular breaks will be required as their attention span is generally more limited. We recommend at least 3 x 15 minute breaks per day. Scheduling these after long periods of learning or sitting will be most beneficial to the child.
  • For older children, they may not necessarily seek out these movements at recess and lunch. This places additional importance on receiving at least 2 x 15-20 minute breaks.
    For adults, we recommend completing at least 1x 45 minute break completing Vestibular activities.

If you want to find out more about your child’s vestibular sense, contact us to see how we can support your child.