Swinging, the Vestibular System, and How Children Find Balance
Most of us take our senses, as well as our brain's ability to process them seamlessly, for granted. Think about all that your senses must process in order to walk down a street or go outside: the movement of others around you, the cool breeze against your neck, the sound of conversation or traffic. Someone with a sensory processing disorder would struggle with the unpredictable movements of others around them, the sharp sting of the wind, or understanding where the voices or noises were coming from. The process of these activities coordinating in your brain is called sensory integration, and for many students with learning difficulties, targeted exercises can help.
The Vestibular System and SPD
Our body's vestibular system is what is responsible for how our body and brain react to gravity and objects within our periphery. Most people are able to navigate around objects or people, and pause to think about how their body can balance, walk up steps or not fall into tables and chairs. However, when the vestibular system isn't communicating with the rest of the body, a child becomes acutely aware that their orientation is off. Many children with sensory processing disorders show a need for utilizing exercises that will help strengthen this system.
Swinging for Sensory Integration
One method that has shown success for students with sensory processing disorders is utilizing a swing. Swinging allows a child to neutralize the disruptions that are caused by their vestibular system, which can often originate in the inner ear. The smooth, back-and-forth motion can be soothing and calming to a child, which is why you will often see swings utilized in classroom or therapy settings. If families want to try this at home, they can purchase a simple outdoor swing, or one that has straps and allows the child to feel secure and snugly comforted by the deep stimulus. Many companies also offer swings that can be installed in doorways for families without access to outside space.
Children with processing disorders may find balance and feel comfortable and safe when a swing is utilized as part of their day.