The Vestibular System

Newsletter July 2013

Did you know?

The vestibular system is located inside the inner ear and it is the sensory system responsible for detecting movement of our head and the sense of gravity. It tells us which way up our head is and where our head is in space at any time.

The vestibular system is very important in helping us to maintain our balance. It also helps us keep an upright posture against gravity so it is important in postural control.

The vestibular system is linked to our visual system. Imagine that you are driving down a very bumpy road, the vestibular system sends messages to our visual system to keep a stable visual gaze so that the horizon does not move up and down when we get bounced up and down in the car.

The vestibular system can also have a direct impact on our arousal level. If we want to get a baby to go to sleep, then we rock the baby. Linear movement, which is movement in only one direction eg back and forwards, or up and down, is calming and organising to our nervous system. Rotary movement, eg spinning , is very alerting to our nervous system.

Have you met?

GIgirl_opt_000 Jane is very frightened of heights. She does not like walking down stairs, or going on an escalator or lift. She is very cautious stepping down kerbs. In PE lessons she hates activities when her feet have to leave the ground such as walking along a bench or using any climbing equipment. She does not like playing at the park on swings, climbing frames or roundabouts. She hates tipping her head backwards in space. As a baby, she would scream when she was laid down to change her nappy.

Jane is over responsive to vestibular sensory input. She experiences the movement as being much greater than it is. Jane’s particular problem is also termed ‘gravitational insecurity’.

boyswinging_opt_000George loves movement. He never stays still. He constantly rocks on his chair at school. He is up and down from his chair spinning and twirling himself around the classroom. He spends all playtime charging round the playground. He has a trampoline at home and spends hours after school bouncing. He never seems to get tired physically. He loves going to the park and climbing on all the equipment, swinging on the swings and going on the roundabout. George is often described by people as a ‘real lifewire’.

George responds to vestibular input in completely the opposite way to Jane. He needs much more vestibular input before he experiences it, so he therefore seeks out the input that he needs. He may be termed as a ‘sensory seeker’.

Where can I get more information?


Introduction to Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing Disorder

Tuesday 5 November 2013

The aim of this one day course is to provide teachers and health professionals with an understanding of sensory processing disorder and the everyday difficulties the children experience at school and at home. Practical support strategies will be explored from both an educational and therapy perspective.

Sensory Strategies for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder

Tuesday 26 November 2013

The aim of this one day course is to enable teachers and health professionals who have attended the Introduction to Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing Disorder course, or have an equivalent knowledge level, to extend their knowledge on sensory integration and sensory processing disorder. The major focus of this course will be to give participants the understanding and skills necessary to identify and analyse sensory behaviours, and then to set up appropriate sensory strategies within home and school.