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Swinging, the Vestibular System, and How Children Find Balance

Swinging for Sensory Integration

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.

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