THE FINE BALANCING!

Balance is the ability to hold your body upright and steady without falling down! This could be in sitting or standing, moving or standing still, with eyes open or closed. Balance is a significant component of child development and relies heavily on the vestibular system and Proprioceptive systems. Children must learn to balance before they can progress to higher level gross motor skills like stair negotiation, hopping, galloping or skipping.

Vestibular sensory input is a powerful tool in helping children with sensory needs.  Adding a few vestibular activities to the day allows for long-lasting effects.  Every individual requires vestibular sensory input in natural development.  In fact, as infants, we are exposed to vestibular input that promotes a natural and healthy development and integration of all systems and they help in a normal development.

Vestibular activities not only challenge against gravity to help kids with difficulties in equilibrium, balance, self-regulation, also adjusting to typical sensory input.

Red flags of vestibular processing challenges:

  • Poor visual processing

  • Poor spatial awareness

  • Poor balance

  • Difficulty with bilateral integration

  • Sequencing deficits

  • Poor visual-motor skills

  • Poor constructional abilities

  • Poor discrimination of body position

  • Poor discrimination of movement

  • Poor equilibrium

  • Subtle difficulties discerning the orientation of head

  • Trouble negotiating action sequences

 

NEURAL CENTERS FOR BALANCING:

The cerebellum is at the back of the brain, below the cerebrum. It's a lot smaller than the cerebrum at only 1/8 of its size. But it's a very important part of the brain. It controls balance, movement, and coordination (how your muscles work together).

The semicircular canals and the vestibule of the inner ear together help to maintain the balance and equilibrium of the body. The semicircular canals are filled with a fluid called the endolymph. Each one of the semicircular canals has an enlarged cuplike structure called the cupula.The cupula has thin hair cells

The inner ear (also called the labyrinth) contains 2 main structures — the cochlea, which is involved in hearing, and the vestibular system (consisting of the 3 semicircular canals, saccule and utricle), which is responsible for maintaining balance. More specifically, as the fluid in the cochlea moves it moves tiny hairs within the cochlea, creating nerve impulses that your brain can understand. The semicircular canals of the inner ear help you with balance. When you move your head, fluid inside the semicircular canals moves as well.

 

Activities for Balancing:

  1. Playground: swings, hanging bars, ladder, floating bridge, etc.

  2. Animal and bug walks

  3. Playing volleyball with a light ball or balloon

  4. Rocking in a rocking chair

  5. Swinging in a hammock

  6. Jumping on a trampoline or with a jump rope

  7. Walking through an uneven terrain obstacle course (stepping

  8. over step stools, boxes, bubble wrap, pillows, cushions)

  9. Follow the leader animal walks

  10. Rolling down a grassy hill

  11. Sitting and bouncing on a large exercise ball

  12. Balancing on a 1-legged stool

  13. Standing on balance boards

  14. Walking or running up and down ramp

  15. Going up and down stairways or curbs


 

Vestibular Input: BALANCING ACTIVITIES @HOME.

Providing organizing input 2-3 times per day, usually in the morning, afternoon, and evening can help a child maintain a level of arousal needed to attend to perform daily tasks.

Provide movement throughout the day is important to meet your child’s movement needs.Theses activities may hype your child up so make sure they are not done prior to activities that require prolonged attention (i.e. meals, homework, etc.)

Remember, 15 minutes of vestibular input can last up to 12 hours.Below are some activities to help:

  1. Swinging- if you do not currently have a swing set, it may be something you should look into buying.Swinging provides some of the most intensive vestibular input.

  2. Riding a bicycle or taking a walk

  3. Swaying in a hammock

  4. Rock in rocking chair or rocking horse

  5. Jumping on trampoline or in bounce house        

  6. Sit and spin or spinning in office chair

  7. Bouncing on large ball

  8. Dancing, marching, twirling

  9. Jumping rope

  10. Imitating head positions

  11. Slides and climbing on playground equipment

  12. Summersaults

  13. Create an obstacle course to crawl under, over, through chairs, cushions, pillows, etc.

 

References:

  1. http://therapystreetforkids.com/Sensory.html

  2. https://www.livestrong.com/article/49331-factors-body-equilibrium-balance/

  3. https://theinspiredtreehouse.com/child-development-balance/

  4. http://www.sportwellington.org.nz/fms-stability-balance/

  5. https://childdevelopment.com.au/areas-of-concern/gross-motor-skills/balance-coordination/

  6. https://nspt4kids.com/therapy/10-activities-to-improve-balance/

  7. http://www.pillerchilddevelopment.com/vestibularInput.php

  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sense_of_balance

  9. https://www.merakilane.com/sensory-integration-activities-autism-vestibular-system-exercises/