Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Therapy Thursday: SPD Vestibular System

Each week I post about some type of therapy we use, who recommended it, and the reason we are using it.  Remember, I am not a licensed therapist and I am sharing our experiences.  We would love to hear your stories too! Please leave a comment below!  

Sensory Processing Disorder: Vestibular System

For the month of August, I am highlighting the different senses that Sensory Processing Disorder affects, a checklist of symptoms and some activities we do to help.  We started with proprioception, which is the internal sense of knowing where your body parts are without looking a them.  Then we went on to the tactile system, which is how our brain receives information coming from the receptors on our skin about touch, pain and temperature.  

This week we are introducing the vestibular system, which coordinates movement and balance through receptors in the inner ear and in relation to Earth's gravity.  Have you ever experienced dizziness when you've had a cold and your ears feel plugged?  This is due to an imbalance in your vestibular system.  Children who experience this may be fearful (or crave) their feet being off the ground and movement, or get dizzy very easily or not at all.

 Signs Of Vestibular Dysfunction:

1. Hypersensitivity To Movement (Over-Responsive):

__ avoids/dislikes playground equipment; i.e., swings, ladders, slides, or merry-go-rounds

__ prefers sedentary tasks, moves slowly and cautiously, avoids taking risks, and may appear "wimpy"

__ avoids/dislikes elevators and escalators; may prefer sitting while they are on them or, actually get motion sickness from them

__ may physically cling to an adult they trust

__ may appear terrified of falling even when there is no real risk of it

__ afraid of heights, even the height of a curb or step

__ fearful of feet leaving the ground

__ fearful of going up or down stairs or walking on uneven surfaces

__ afraid of being tipped upside down, sideways or backwards; will strongly resist getting hair washed over the sink

__ startles if someone else moves them; i.e., pushing his/her chair closer to the table

__ as an infant, may never have liked baby swings or jumpers

__ may be fearful of, and have difficulty riding a bike, jumping, hopping, or balancing on one foot (especially if eyes are closed)

__ may have disliked being placed on stomach as an infant

__ loses balance easily and may appear clumsy

__ fearful of activities which require good balance

__ avoids rapid or rotating movements

2. Hyposensitivity To Movement (Under-Responsive):

__ in constant motion, can't seem to sit still

__ craves fast, spinning, and/or intense movement experiences

__ loves being tossed in the air

__ could spin for hours and never appear to be dizzy

__ loves the fast, intense, and/or scary rides at amusement parks

__ always jumping on furniture, trampolines, spinning in a swivel chair, or getting into upside down positions

__ loves to swing as high as possible and for long periods of time

__ is a "thrill-seeker"; dangerous at times

__ always running, jumping, hopping etc. instead of walking

__ rocks body, shakes leg, or head while sitting

__ likes sudden or quick movements, such as, going over a big bump in the car or on a bike

3. Poor Muscle Tone And/Or Coordination:

__ has a limp, "floppy" body

__ frequently slumps, lies down, and/or leans head on hand or arm while working at his/her desk

__ difficulty simultaneously lifting head, arms, and legs off the floor while lying on stomach ("superman" position)

__ often sits in a "W sit" position on the floor to stabilize body
__ fatigues easily!

__ compensates for "looseness" by grasping objects tightly

__ difficulty turning doorknobs, handles, opening and closing items

__ difficulty catching him/her self if falling

__ difficulty getting dressed and doing fasteners, zippers, and buttons

__ may have never crawled as an baby

__ has poor body awareness; bumps into things, knocks things over, trips, and/or appears clumsy

__ poor gross motor skills; jumping, catching a ball, jumping jacks, climbing a ladder etc.

__ poor fine motor skills; difficulty using "tools", such as pencils, silverware, combs, scissors etc.

__ may appear ambidextrous, frequently switching hands for coloring, cutting, writing etc.; does not have an established hand preference/dominance by 4 or 5 years old

__ has difficulty licking an ice cream cone

__ seems to be unsure about how to move body during movement, for example, stepping over something

__ difficulty learning exercise or dance steps

If your child has been newly diagnosed, an online support that I have thoroughly enjoyed is the SPD Blogger Network.  It is a community blog, written by parents of children with SPD.  I laugh and cry as I read the stories of other parents who are also in the trenches.

This week I'd like to "show" you a few activities we have fun with but that also offer therapeutic advantages.

My husband built this platform swing (Yes, I know how blessed I am!) after searching OT catalogs and realizing he could customize one for us and at a lesser cost.  We had it hanging in our front room until we had to move.  Our entire family had tons of fun with it as evidenced by all the smiles and giggles.    

One of our children, James, has sensory processing disorder but he also suffers with (mild) cerebral palsy and seizures.  He really has a hard time with balance, coordination, movement, and has a difficult time with his feet leaving the ground.  We had him in hippotherapy, which is PT/OT/speech done on the back of a horse.  We were surprised by everything his therapists were able to get him to do and with a smile on his face.  James is a sensory seeker and is constantly seeking more input from his environment.  I have not found any therapy that equals hippotherapy in the amount of sensory input it provides.


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