Vestibular System and Child Development
Recently, I have been working with a boy in Early Start, who has Autism. I was called in to see how I could help him as he is just entering our Head Start program. After a short time of observation, I could see he needed assistance in developing his vestibular system.
I noticed how he would lean forward with his head as he moved around the room. He was spending a great deal of time roaming the room in this fashion. He also tended to step up on anything that would take him off the ground. For instance, he would repeatedly step on and off the built-up step/platform by the child sink area. He also walked on his toes. These are signs of a greater need for vestibular system support.
I demonstrate these signs in greater detail in my video below.
What many people want to do when they see these movements is to “teach” the child to sit still. I’ve seen this over the years as an OT. It makes sense to have that desire to teach the skill of sitting still until you understand the vestibular system and what it is seeking for development.
Breaking Down The Vestibular System
The vestibular system is part of our balance system and we need balance for safety. In the example I gave above, the child is showing a need for more vestibular activities, by engaging in movements that keep him off balance. I help teachers by providing them with the solutions to help children like this boy, to further their sensory development. In effect, this child is showing us exactly what his development needs are and what we need to do to assist, which is give him more vestibular development activities in greater intensity.
It can be hard to see, however, the boy is showing us exactly what his development needs are and what we need to do to assist, which is give him more vestibular development activities in greater intensity.
Activities to Increase Vestibular Development
We can stimulate and challenge the vestibular system with activities, so it can further develop and eventually, hopefully, be fully developed. This will significantly decrease or stop the child’s need for extra movement. Swinging on swings and many other activities stimulate the vestibular system.
Of course, there could be other reasons why a child could be creating extra movements such as trauma, emotion or behavior but if a child is showing the characteristics or symptoms that I outlined above, it’s a clue that the vestibular system is needing attention.
Get Training on the Vestibular System
If you are interested in more information of how the vestibular system works and how to incorporate vestibular activities into your classroom, hire me for my day training- Sensory Processing: It Does Make Sense training.
Share Your Experience
If your student is experiencing something similar to the boy I’m working with, I would love to hear from you. Share your experience by leaving a comment in the comment box below.