In this video, Amanda Martinage talks about Vestibular Processing: How to Address Dysfunction.
To address hypersensitivity, Amanda suggests adapting the environment and introducing difficult experiences using a really structured, predictable, and caring approach. The more exposure you have to an item, the more your body is going to begin to accept that input.
MARTINAGE: Hi. My name's Amanda Martinage, and I'm an occupational therapist and I work for Case Collaborative. Today's teachable moment is going to be Part 2 of Vestibular Processing: How to Address Dysfunction.
When we talk about any of sensory processing difficulties, there are three ways of addressing these difficulties. First of all, you can use a sensory diet. And that really addresses the deficit. You can adapt the environment, which compensates for the deficit. Or you can structure the routines. And that really provides predictability. Because many children with sensory processing difficulties, specifically sensory modulation difficulties, have a hard time transitioning from one thing to the next because they're not really quite sure what's going to happen next. So providing predictability is really helpful for them.
So how do you address vestibular hypersensitivity? We'll talk about first. So the overall things that you want to think about with hypersensitivity is, you need to introduce difficult experiences using a really structured, predictable, and caring approach. And think about, with all of the different kinds of dysfunction — whenever it's a sensitivity, if you're talking about any of the different senses: tactile, vestibular, propriaseptive — all of the different areas that you can accept information. The more exposure you have to an item, the more your body is going to begin to accept that input.
So specific to vestibular hypersensitivity, if you are sensitive to anything-- and I have a particular-- I have some vestibular hypersensitivities, where I get motion sick. I have a hard time on swings and with excessive movement. So if I decide it's something that I really would like to address, to work on, I actually have to work at it. I have to be on board with it because it's not a pleasant experience. Working through something like motion sickness, that means I have to get myself to the point where I feel sick and then just sit with it for a little while to let my neurological system adapt to it. And that's something that's really challenging for adults, never mind for children.
So structuring routines to provide predictability is probably going to be the best thing to do with this hypersensitivity. If you know that there's something challenging coming up, providing some structure around it and maybe having a schedule saying, OK. These are the things and then later, we need to go to gym class. They're working on somersaults. This is something that's coming up. And right after that, we can have a break time. And incorporating those break times in between difficult times is going to be very helpful.
Creating rules around difficult times of the day. I mean we all have a little bit of dysfunction in our life. But it's a matter of whether or not we break down and have major meltdowns about it. So creating rules around difficult times — you know what, I understand this gym time is really hard for you. But what you need to do is ask for a break and we can take a little bit of a break.
So knowing that it's really not something that the child would want to have happen to them — they don't want to feel sick. But giving them appropriate ways of dealing with their dysfunction. And adapting the environment is certainly really helpful when you have hypersensitivities. So if there's the option — OK, instead of taking the elevator we can take the stairs. If that's an option, providing alternative activities that would allow or accommodate for the dysfunction.
So if we go to that other side, addressing hyposensitivity. For these children, they don't feel movement. They need excessive movement to feel what the typical individual would feel. So you want to provide exposure to these various intense vestibular activities throughout the day. And I really highlight the word intense because if you want to have a greater bang for your buck, you want to think about going for a walk is a vestibular activity. You're moving. But if you go on a trampoline where you're really jumping up and down, that's pretty intense. You're going to get a greater lasting effect from jumping on a trampoline compared to going for a walk.
So if we break it down into those three areas: sensory diet, thinking about alternating that intense movement activities with activities that require attention to the task. And it totally depends on the child. Maybe you alternate every half an hour. They have some sort of movement activity. And then in between those half hours is when you're able to sit and really focus on something.
Adapting the environment is going to be helpful. So in part one of this Teachable Moment, I provided some different seating alternatives. So you could use a move and sit cushion, rocking chairs, sitting on a therapy ball or balance chairs. There's so many things out now in regular stores. I was just in BJ's yesterday and they had the web chairs. You can get to a regular old office swivel chair. So you don't have to be looking at therapy magazines to find these materials. They're all over the place now.
I am going to provide some online resources for you to check out. These online resources tend to be geared towards vestibular hyposensitivities. So children who are really seeking out that vestibular information.
Always remember what the dysfunction is. Because when you understand what the dysfunction is, you're going to be able to better select the activities for your child. So I hope you found this information helpful. My name's Amanda Martinage. And this is today's Teachable Moment.
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