Vestibular: Activities 11-19

It is vital that extreme caution is taken when using vestibular activities as some students can have strongly aversive responses to sensory input. If a student is overresponsive to vestibular (movement) input, seek advice from an occupational therapist before commencing vestibular activities. Indicators that a student is overresponsive to movement input are:

  • Refuses, or is reluctant, to engage in movement activities
  • Demonstrates a preference for sedentary activities
  • Stops engaging in movement activities after a short time
  • Complains of nausea and/or headaches during and after movement activities
  • You observe physiological signs of distress during a movement activity e.g. change to pallor, sweating, dilated pupils

Some of these indicators (e.g. headache, nausea) may not be apparent until several hours after the activity and this is why it is important to consult with an occupational therapist if you are concerned a student is sensitive to movement.

Always respect the student’s refusal to participate in a movement activity and do not try to persuade or coerce. In particular, backward and rotary movements should be avoided if the student is overrresponsive to movement.

Some students may also experience gravitational insecurity, meaning they become extremely anxious on unstable surfaces or when off the ground (e.g. walking on a balance beam, climbing ropes). It is important that these students always have a stable base of support.

Vestibular activities in which all students should be able to participate include:

  • Cardiovascular activity e.g. swimming, running, walking
  • Bilateral activities e.g. cycling, swimming
  • Core stability activities e.g. press-ups, sit-ups
  • Dancing
  • Figure of 8 walks

If the student is not overresponsive to movement and does not have gravitational insecurity, the following vestibular activities can be used:

  • Standing on a balance board
  • Spinning on an office chair
  • Sitting on an exercise ball
  • Jumping on a trampoline