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The vestibular system refers to structures within the inner ear
(the semi-circular canals) that detect movement and changes in the position of the head.
For example, the vestibular system tells you when your head is upright or tilted (even
with your eyes closed).

Dysfunction within this system may show itself in two different ways:

1. Some children may be hypersensitive (overly sensitive) to vestibular stimulation
and have fearful reactions to ordinary movement activities (e.g., swings, slides, ramps,
inclines). They may also have trouble learning to climb or descend stairs or hills; and they may be apprehensive walking or crawling on uneven or unstable surfaces. As a result, they seem fearful in space. This over-sensitivity to movement input is often described as gravitational insecurity.

2. On the other extreme, the child may actively seek very intense sensory experiences
such as excessive body whirling, jumping, and/or spinning. This type of child
demonstrates signs of a hyposensitivity (decreased sensitivity) to vestibular input;
that is, they are trying continuously to stimulate their vestibular systems.

Possible Signs of Vestibular processing deficits:

  • Constantly moving
  • Difficulty with typical motor actions (riding a bike, climbing stairs)
  • Never getting dizzy OR getting dizzy very easily
  • Fearful of playground equipment
  • Fear of having head upside down or backward
  • Thrill seeker
  • Full of excess energy