Kris Kross must have know that Vestibular input is one of the most important foundations of our sensory system!!

Whilst not always mentioned with the ‘common’ sensory processing centres such as sight, touch, hearing, taste, smell, the vestibular sensory system is a vital component in a human’s development. It is responsible for helping us maintain balance and coordination, centering around the auditory system being the cochlea and labyrinth of the inner ear. It also assist us in developing and determining our processing of visual information and the other unknown sense of proprioception (where you are in space).

To put it simply, when you feel vertigo, lose your balance when you spin around and around, that is your vestibular system being affected. The fluids in the inner ear shiftwhen your head changes direction or tilts, sending messages to the other sensory organs that alignment is off. This allows the other senses to make the necessary adjustments to maintain balance.

A person who suffers vestibular sensory disorder does not send the right messages, therefore unbalancing their overall equilibrium. A sufferer can either be hypersensitive or hyposensitive. Meaning, they can be more over-responsive and more sensitive to movement or less sensitive and crave more movement due to an under-responsive system.

Key signs of hypersensitivity (over responsive):

  • Clumsiness or loss of balance
  • Avoid rapid or rotating movements e.g.- playground roundabouts
  • Avoid going upside down or being tilted
  • Fear of heights or falling as a result of uncertainty or even motion sickness
  • Fearful of, or difficulty, riding a bike or jumping
  • Dislikes lying on their stomach, especially as an infant
  • Motion sickness travelling in elevators or stairs.
  • Avoids playgrounds
  • Fearful of leaving the ground

vestibular sensory processing disorder

Key signs of hyposensitivity (under responsive):

  • In constant motion i.e. can’t sit still
  • Likes sudden movements and even craves them
  • Likes to go upside down
  • Runs, jumps, hops instead of walking
  • Thrillseeker – loves fast rides at amusement parks
  • Jumps on furniture, trampolines and anything else bouncy for longer period of time and more intensely than usual.
  • Loves to swing as high as possible on swings.
  • Never seems to get dizzy or lose balance or control.

Vestibular sensory disorder can be managed with the correct treatment. There are also steps you can take at home to help with your child’s development in between your OT sessions.

Activity suggestions:

  • If hypersensitive: Encourage your child to play on playground equipment with your support. Swing them gently on the swing to get them use to the movement without being too vigorous.
  • Jumping rope.
  • Riding a bike or trike
  • Tyre swing or hammock
  • Climbing frames
  • Trampoline
  • All playground equipment
  • Rolling down a grass hill
  • Handstands