Is all vestibular activation created equal?

The vestibular system affords a powerful treatment strategy

We acknowledge that our brain, with all of its neurological connections, develops and is altered positively and/or negatively by our experiences. A comprehensive understanding of the vestibular system affords therapists one of the most powerful treatment strategies because of its multifaceted contribution the integration of all sensory systems. The therapeutic power of vestibular activation is in precision. All linear and rotary movements of the body in the field of gravity are perceived by this bilateral, five receptor system when it is functioning optimally. However, many of our clients have a history of issues such as trauma, chronic ear infections, or movement deprivation that compromise the integrity of vestibular processing.

A child that has been fearful of getting on a swing is suddenly calling out to mom: “see how I am flying through the air?”

Fortunately, with comprehensive understanding of its neuroanatomical design and extensive CNS connections, amelioration of the vast majority of challenging issues is possible through the utilization of thoughtful clinical reasoning and precisely implemented therapeutic activities. For example, a child that has been fearful of getting on a swing is suddenly calling out to mom: “see how I am flying through the air?” Another child who has been struggling with reading is starting to read for pleasure. Or imagine your amazement when your client safely and confidently negotiates stairs with alternating steps. Our clinical reasoning and experience demonstrates that when we provide activation to all vestibular receptors in the context of activities designed to target specific outcomes, predictable and desirable behaviors are achieved.

In short, therapeutically designed movement plays a key role for the brain to synthesize information from all of the other senses in such a way that one feels safe and secure in one’s own body so as to successfully engage in the environment in an organized, confident manner.

-Mary Kawar, MS, OT/L

Learn more about the importance of vestibular activation in the Astronaut Training course.

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One Comment on: “Is all vestibular activation created equal?

  1. There is nothing more wonderful in treatment, then witnessing the moment a child feels secure enough in their body to “go for it” and “own it.”
    And then, transfer that to functional life skills in the community such as bike riding, monkey bars, rock climbing, swimming, etc.
    Thank you for your years of wisdom and guidance to the OT community.

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