For most kids, the playground is a fun place that provides all kinds of movement including swinging, spinning, hanging up-side-down, going down the slide, and hanging on monkey bars. (There are often tactile benefits too of playing in sand!) The kind of movement that playgrounds provide is what occupational therapists would identify as "vestibular input", which is the motion or change of head position. Most kids highly enjoy vestibular activities, but if a child avoids these or similar activities, there may be an indication of sensory processing challenges.
The following are signs of over-reactions to vestibular input:
- intolerant or fearful of unexpected movement
- avoids or is distressed by movement activities
- displays anxiety, fear, or distress when feet are off the ground (swinging, monkey bars, etc.)
- dislikes or avoids playground equipment or moving toys
- hesitant with stairs or curbs
- tends to be tense and rigid
- doesn't like activities where head is upside down
- doesn't like riding in a car
- becomes disoriented after bending over a table or a sink
Avoidance of vestibular input can be a sign that there is a larger underlying sensory challenge. The vestibular system is one of the foundational sensory areas, and dysfunction can often lead to challenges in other areas of sensory processing. If you are concerned about your child's sensory functioning and are looking for an Occupational Therapist in Charlotte, contact Child and Family Development. We would love to help you and your family learn about sensory integration.