As the new school year kicks off, teachers around are spending the school day focusing on supporting academic achievements and igniting a passion for learning. While for some children, this comes naturally for others this takes longer because they experience problems rooted in sensory integration, particularly integration of vestibular information.
The vestibular system is the system that supports all of the other sensory systems and provides the bridge between sensory processing and motor control. Many life experiences disrupt vestibular development and function according to Sheila Frick, creator of Therapeutic Listening and founder of Vital Links:
- Movement deprivation: This could be in utero due to the mother being placed on extended bed rest, increased time in a neo natal intensive care unit or as an infant increased time spent in sedentary activity.
- Lack of tummy time: This could be a result of baby carriers, dislike of being placed in this position due to reflux.
- Deprivation and/or trauma: experience of early childhood trauma can disrupt processing of sensory information and/or can contribute to a lack of environmental exploration.
- Ongoing history of ear infections.
If the vestibular system is not providing ongoing, automatic and rapid information and/or is not nourished with frequent opportunities for changes in head position, the following can be observed:
- Poor posture and reduced stamina e.g. floppy posture or overly stiff posture
- Poor balance and frequent stumbling
- Difficulty visually following along a line of print for reading
- Sensitivity to sounds
- Fear of movement e.g. on swings
The good news is, there is a lot you can do to get your vestibular system in check! Start by contacting your local Paediatric Occupational Therapist trained in Sensory Integration.