What is the Vestibular System and How is it Considered One of the Main Senses in Regulating Sensory Integration

 

This sensory system plays an important role in muscle tone, motor control, stability, ability to correctly perceive things around them visually, balance, language skills that rely on the auditory system, and even with attention.

However, little is discussed about a person’s vestibular system and how it plays a role in daily living. Basically, it is the heart of balance and efficient movement for a human being. It is a complicated system and positioned in the ear and the brain.

Why Is It Important?

The vestibular system is one of the most essential in the body, critical for:

  • the person’s sense of balance
  • developing normal reactions for successful movement
  • motion tolerance
  • controlling the body for a properly aligned posture
  • vision acuity

The system is comprised of receptors in the inner ear and fibers of cranial nerve VIII, or vestibulocochlear, in the brain. It provides the necessary data to the brain about gravity, space, our head and body position as it relates to the ground, and overall balance and movement.

How does a problem with the vestibular system affect children?

Children who have a vestibular system that is not correctly regulated may have difficulty with some areas of overall development, which can put them behind their peers. Without an adequately working vestibular system, they can’t gain the functional skills needed for many everyday activities.

Many children that have difficulty with regulating their vestibular system can be over or under-responsive to movement. For example, a child that is over responsive, may have a fear of movement when their feet leave the ground such as in playground time or playing on the swings. A child with an under-active vestibular system may seek extra movement throughout their day. This can cause them to feel the need to get up and move around the classroom, climb on furniture, or jump around without teacher consent. Many times, a child with a vestibular processing problem can be seen as having a behavioral problem, even though it is a sensory integration issue.

It is important to detect when a sensory integration problem is affecting a child’s day to day life so that they can receive the optimal occupational therapy treatment. It is important that the OT providing treatment in this area has received advanced training in sensory integration to receive the most optimal treatment in this area.

At WriteSteps Pediatric Occupational Therapy, Danielle has received advanced certification in sensory integration evaluation and treatment to provide the best treatment to a child with an under or over responsive vestibular system.

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