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Vestibular (movement) system

The vestibular sense provides us with a good posture, balance and movement sensation.

Our movement receptors are located in our inner ear and send information about our position and how we are moving to the brain. If the brain does not process the movement sensation accurately then we may be described as over responsive or under responsive to movement sensation and this will affect our behaviour.

If the brain is over responsive, it can become easily overwhelmed by a movement experience causing fear, anxiety and avoidance. If it is under responsive it may seek out more movement experiences to satisfy its need.

This video talks about our postural stability, balance and alertness.

A child that has an over responsive movement system may:

  • Be fearful of movement
  • Not want to play on playground equipment
  • Dislike escalators or lifts
  • Be travel sick
  • Dislike a change in head position, for example, head being tilted back during hard washing

A child that has an under responsive movement system may:

  • Be 'on the go’ more than their peers
  • Need movement in order to concentrate
  • Take excessive risks such as not showing fear when jumping from a big height

There are a number of ways that you can help a child with an over responsive movement system:

  • When travelling, encourage your child to look out of the window and hold a toy/object that’s is easy to fidget with without looking, for example a squeezy toy
  • Give them options such as using stairs rather than a lift or escalator
  • Encourage participation in the type of movement they enjoy or tolerate
  • Never force them to participate in an activity
  • Combine movement activities with opportunities to experience proprioception (body awareness)


There are a number of things that you can do to help a child that has an under responsive movement system:

  • Provide your child with ample opportunities to experience movement, such as going to the park regularly, swimming and trampolining
  • Create a safe environment in which they can experience movement such as if you are using a garden trampoline, ensure it has a safety net
  • Provide more opportunity to practice certain movement related skills such as jumping and swinging
  • Split the day into small sections to allow for frequent movement breaks
  • Get them to sit on an inflatable cushion such as a Movin' Sit Cushion or disc cushion