By: Laura Petix, MS OTR/L

Let’s talk about vestibular input. It’s more than just swinging and spinning. There’s actually 5 types of vestibular input, let’s learn about them!


What is Vestibular Input?

Wait… vestibular what?


Your vestibular system is a network of parts in your inner ear that contribute to your sense of balance and coordination. The vestibular receptors in your inner ear get activated anytime your head moves in relation to gravity. 


Anytime your head tilts to the side, goes upside down, or spins, the vestibular system helps you process this information so your brain knows and your body can make a response (e.g. sit up straight, move slower, etc) if needed.


Why is Vestibular Input Important?

The vestibular system is a huge neon sign that tells our brain where our head is in space. This makes the vestibular system important for functional tasks such as:



A refined vestibular system contributes to developmental skills such as


5 Types of Vestibular Input

People are often surprised to know that vestibular input goes beyond your typical spinning and swinging, and it’s important to be exposed to all 5 types of vestibular input in order to have an efficient and balanced sensory system.


There are 5 main types of vestibular input:



5 types of vestibular input

These different types of vestibular input all send different sensory information to your brain to tell you more about how your body is moving in relation to gravity. It also prepares your brain to fight or flight in the event of perceived danger or if a protective reflex is needed.


How do I know if my child has problems with vestibular processing?

Some kids with sensory disorders particularly have issues with vestibular processing. This may present as a child who is fearful of movement as a whole, unable to react or move because of a fear of getting off-balance. On the other hand, some kids may be unable to stop moving and may have a hard time with safety awareness. These issues can severely impede daily life and regular activities in the home, school or community.


Learn more about an over responsive vestibular system here.


Learn more about an under responsive vestibular system here


How can I promote vestibular processing at home?

Engaging your child in activities that promote vestibular processing should primarily focus on introducing kids to these sensations and teaching them strategies to integrate them and adjust to them in their daily activities. Movement paired with a goal-directed and purposeful task can also help.


Here’s some examples of purposeful movement based activities:



Let me know in the comments below… which of these vestibular inputs are your child’s favorite or least favorite?

EXPLORE A RELATED CATEGORY:

Sensory Processing

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MEET THE AUTHOR

Laura Petix, MS OTR/L

I’m an enneagram 6, so my brain is constantly moving. My OT lenses never turn off and I can’t “un-see” the sensory and other developmental skills that go in to literally every activity. I love taking what I see and breaking it down into simple terms so parents can understand what goes into their child’s behavior and skills.

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