From day one, your neurological systems have been developing and processing a great deal of sensory information. Your system then takes this information and interprets it to make it ready for use for specific purposes. For children to mature and build their core foundational skills, proper intake and use of this sensory information are vital. This is a normal developmental process and if it is impeded in any way, it can lead to adverse effects, such as vestibular dysfunction. Fortunately, sensory integration can help with dysfunction of the vestibular system.
What is Vestibular Dysfunction?
The vestibular system is an essential part of the development of normal motion tolerance, movement reactions, and motor control for vision, balance, and postural alignment. A damaged vestibular system, whether by injury in childhood or disease, can seriously impact the child’s development and if it happens early in their development, it can slow the development of protective reflexes, equilibrium, and motor-control activities, like unsupported sitting, walking, standing, and even schoolwork.
How Sensory Integration Helps Treat Vestibular Dysfunction
Sensory integration therapy is offered by pediatric occupational therapists. The concept behind sensory integration therapy is that resistive body work, particular movement activities, and skin brushing can help children with sensory issue to experience better levels of regulation and arousal.
It helps to rewire the child’s brain so they can respond and integrate appropriately to sensory input. This allows the child to feel safer and make sense of the world. The process of rewiring decreases anxiety and makes the child more successful, confident, and an interactive explorer.
Sensory Integration Benefits
There are a variety of tactile and vestibular opportunities incorporated into sensory integration activities when needed that help a child with vestibular dysfunction or other sensory processing disorders to improve challenging areas such as:
- Movement or tactile sensitivity
- Dyspraxia and motor skills
- Fine motor skills (including handwriting)
It offers the child who has challenges with sensory integration the chance to explore their environment and become self-regulated through the use of specific tools. Generally and preferably, therapy is provided in a sensory-rich environments. During these therapy sessions, the child is guided by the therapist through activities that are fun, but challenge him in a structured way.
The goal of sensory integration therapy is to encourage responses from the child to sensation in a meaningful, active, and fun way. After initial therapy and once the child begins to behave in a more functional way, therapy can be taken outside a formal pediatric occupational therapy setting, and brought over to the school, home and community where the child can then begin taking part in normal childhood activities like going to school, playing with friends, sleeping, dressing and eating.