Posted February 3, 2017
Spinning, running, jumping, dancing: Kids need to be active for proper development of their minds and bodies. These physical activities are directed by the vestibular system, located in the middle and inner ear. If it’s not working correctly, kids may feel the world is out of balance, affecting their learning and behavior. Here are four things to know:
1. Development – As babies grow in the womb, the vestibular is the first sensory system to form.
- It’s located deep inside the ear where it’s protected by the brain.
- It organizes and responds to sensory input.
- If not developed correctly, the vestibular system may not properly process gravitational or survival information through the eyes and ears, which sends the wrong messages to the brain.
- The vestibular system may not develop correctly for several reasons, such as:
- Premature birth
- Extensive incubation after birth
- Exposure to extreme movements or sounds in the womb or as an infant
- Minimal holding or moving around after birth
- Severe or repeated ear infections
2. Function – The vestibular system plays an important role in kids’ body control and movement, including:
- Awareness of space
- Activity – rolling, crawling, walking, jumping, climbing
3. Symptoms – According to medical researchers, kids with poor vestibular processing may exhibit a variety of behaviors:
- Lack of focus and random eye movement
- Inability to read, write in cursive or solve basic math problems
- Constant movement – bouncing, fidgeting, rocking
- Impulsive behavior that may be unsafe
- Fear of being in a confined space or sudden movements, such as riding an elevator
- Motion sickness and feeling nauseous
- Balance problems as evidenced by crashing into things, falling without reason, difficulty walking on uneven surfaces, or problems climbing stairs
4. Treatment – Parents whose kids exhibit signs of poor vestibular processing should contact their doctor to explore treatment options, such as:
- Encouraging kids to play outside and engage in supervised swinging, rolling, jumping or climbing activities.
- Limiting the amount of time spent watching TV or playing video games.
- Engaging in thinking activities to stimulate processing information from using the eyes and ears.
- Taking over-the-counter or prescription medications to alleviate symptoms.