Vestibular System

The Vestibular Sensory System

Our sense of movement and balance is known as our Vestibular sense. It is responsible for controlling our muscles, and most of our reflexes. The vestibular system is stimulated by movement up or down, backward or forwards, and around or over.

Our postural tone

Our vestibular system helps us to control our ‘postural tone’. This is the message we receive from our brain as to how much our muscles need to be active or relaxed. If our postural tone is too high we might find it difficult to change positions smoothly and grade our movements.

Controlling our movement

The vestibular system tells us where our body is in relation to gravity, where it is moving to and how fast. The nerves that control our vestibular system are located in the inner ear and tell our brain what direction we are moving in.

Responsiveness to vestibular input

Children who are over-responsive to vestibular input may not enjoy playing in ways which cause them to move fast or that involves unpredictable body movements, this may result in them feeling scared if their balance is challenged or is unpredictable. Children who are under-responsive to vestibular input may look floppy or sedentary and they may seek out lots of movement to counteract this.

Difficulties you may see:

  • Unable to sit still
  • Rocking in the chair
  • Jiggling when listening
  • Running everywhere
  • Poor balance and posture
  • Avoiding activities where feet leave the floor
  • Excessive fear of falling
  • Car sickness
  • Avoiding uneven floor surfaces