Starfish Therapies

June 18, 2017

Pop Goes the Bubble

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 12:03 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Who doesn’t love bubbles? A lot of the kids we work with do! Here are some things that you can work on with bubble play:

  • Reaching – You can do this in almost any position.
    • Sitting – For little ones just learning to sit you can start by blowing bubbles all around them and having them move their arms towards them. As they get a little more stable you can blow the bubble and catch it on the end of the wand and hold it further away from them so they have to reach outside their base of support. You can have them reach up, forward, to the side, across the body, diagonal, pretty much any direction! For kids who are sitting in chairs you can do this as well. Make it even more difficult by putting them on a bench where their feet don’t touch, or on an unstable surface like a peanut, therapy ball, or dynamic sitting cushion. If you want to control the challenge, you can have them sit on a therapy ball and change their position while they try to reach. This can really work on the core muscles.  Make a game out of it, see how many bubbles they can pop in a minute. Then you get some counting in too!
    • Standing – All the same ideas as above except in a standing position. You can use spots to help them keep their feet in place so they have a smaller base of support, or you can use more than one spot so you are changing their foot position while they reach. Maybe even use a twister board and have them change their foot position and each time they have to pop a bubble. You can make it more challenging by having them stand on a balance board, a bosu, a dynamic disc, on top of stepping stones, on a balance beam, the possibilities are endless. You could also have them stand in more challenging positions such as tandem stance or single leg stance while reaching.
    • Kneeling  – The same ideas apply to kneeling. You can do short kneeling, tall kneeling, half kneeling. Change the surface, change the leg position, etc.
  • Single Leg Stance – What better way to pop bubbles than with your feet? Bubbles are a great way to get kids to stomp and when they are purposefully stomping they are generally holding their foot up a little bit longer than if they are just walking. Also because they are trying to stomp on the bubble they are more deliberate and trying to find their balance. You can have them go one bubble at a time (possibly holding it on the end of the wand) or you can blow a whole bunch and have them stomp through the bubble fields. You can make it more challenging by having varied surfaces that the bubbles are on so they have to stomp up onto a step or onto a mat, or down onto the ground from a slightly elevated position.

  • Squatting – Great time to get in squatting practice, or floor to stand/stand to floor practice. If you blow the bubbles towards the floor they may attempt to get to them with their hands. Then the next time you blow them up high and have them stand up for them. As long as they are entertained, you can get a lot of reps in this way! If the bubbles aren’t going where you want then you just need to catch it on the wand and hold it down low or up high for them to try to pop.
  • Other – There a ton of other things too such as oral motor control from blowing the bubbles, and breath control for the same reason. Visual motor, Fine motor control, and coordination for dipping the wand into the bubble juice and bringing it to their mouth.

What are some of the things you work on with bubbles? What are your favorite activities?

 

June 7, 2017

Apps for PT and Kids

jump jump froggy
Its always fun to find new apps to use with kids. They like the variety and its nice to challenge and engage them in different ways. Here are a few that our therapists have found recently! We’d love to hear what apps you have been using!
Physical Therapy For Kids (By Preferred Mobile Applications LLC) $6.99
The Physical Therapy For Kids App was created by a yoga instructor and a Physical Therapist to aid pediatric physical therapists in working with their patients. This app has fun images to provide as visuals for 56 different exercises that help kids practice gross motor strength, balance, and coordination activities. Select a picture and tap it repeatedly to see the animation of the exercise.
Recommended for children ages 3-12
Jump Jump Froggy (By Timothy Charoenying) Free
This app features four fun activities: Jump up, 30-second speed hopping challenge, sit-ups, and push-ups. Fun animations come to life with each activity; the on screen action is a direct result of the player’s engagement in the activity. Kids can play to beat their high score and there is a multi-player mode so kids can compete with their friends and family.
Recommended for children of all ages
Super Stretch Yoga (By The Adventures of Super Stretch LLC) Free
This fun app created for kids provides an interactive experience for doing yoga.
Using storytelling, animation and video examples, kids can practice 12 different yoga poses (there are videos of children performing each pose). You can go through all the poses at once or choose 1 pose to do at a time and repeat as often as you like.
Recommended for children 3 and up
Toca Dance Free (By Toca Boca AB) Free
This is a fun app help kids practice motor planning and coordination. It is available as a free version. In this app you dress your dancers and choreograph a dance.  Then a video is made of the completed dance.  Kids can watch and learn the dance created and can pause the video or repeat parts to practice at their own pace.
You can even choreograph movements like squatting, jumping or crossing midline to work on certain PT goals.
Recommended for children ages 6 and up

May 14, 2017

Ideas to Target the Core

wheelbarrow

bridging

modified plank

I don’t know about you, but I know my core muscles (abdominals, back extensors, shoulder girdle, and hips) can always stand to be stronger. This also goes for our kids, typically developing as well as kids with a neuromuscular challenge. While there are lots of ideas for targeting specific muscle groups, sometimes its good to do exercises that get a bigger bang for their buck. There are some exercises that can target multiple areas of the core at the same time. Here are a few:

  • Planks – Planks are great for getting all areas of the core. Of course they are not easy, especially if you want to maintain good form. For those just starting out with a plank you can go on your hands and knees and bring your hips in a straight line with your trunk. To make it harder to you can move to your hands and toes (or forearms and toes) and keep your whole body in a straight line. To make it even easier, you can use a bench or a table and put your hands on there so you are at an incline. The goal is to be able to hold your body in a straight line without having your belly sag or your hips sticking up in the air. Find the level of difficulty that lets you maintain that straight body. And start small. If you can hold it for 15 seconds then do that. Slowly increase your time and then increase the difficulty!
  • Wheelbarrow Walking – This also targets multiple areas, the hips don’t get as much work unless you are being supported by the ankles, but its still great for the shoulders and trunk. You can use a scooter board and sit on it and hold them by their trunk, or their hips, or their thighs, or their ankles (the further out you hold them, the harder it is). Use a hallway and have something fun like a book or a puzzle at the end that they get to do something with each time they get down there. You can also use a rolling stool. This changes the angle and makes it harder. Even harder is you just standing and walking while supporting them. Again, the goal is to hold the body straight so find the level of support that allows them to do this and gradually work your way out towards their ankles and up to you standing!
  • Walk Outs – Use an exercise ball or a peanut ball or even a foam roller (the exercise ball will be the hardest because it can move in multiple directions). Place a puzzle and its pieces a little out of reach and have them lie on their stomach on the ball and then slowly walk out their hands as far as they can go while maintaining a straight trunk and hips. Then put a piece in the puzzle and walk their hands back. Keep repeating until all the pieces are done. You can also use beanbags, or other toys that involve multiple pieces.
  • Bridging – This one really targets the hips but also works on the trunk. I’ve talked about ways to work on this in other posts. You can get creative with how to make it fun, such as balls or cars going underneath. You can also make it harder by putting one foot on an elevated surface and the other one on the floor, or both feet on an exercise ball or peanut (or other unstable surface). You could just do one leg and keep the other leg up in the air. You can do reps of up and down, or you can go up and hold it for longer and longer periods of time.

What are some of your favorite ways to work on the whole core?

May 7, 2017

I Won’t Stand for That! (unless I learn how)

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 12:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

sitting down

Pull to stand

Learning to pull to stand can come naturally for some kids, and for others it can require a bit of work. This video is one where it came naturally (please note the emerging balance reactions at the end of the video – I love to see kids getting to experiment with this). As he was learning to crawl and explore he naturally began experimenting with pushing or pulling up to stand. This may have started with your legs, a coffee table, an oversized bin, the couch, or a chair. Basically anything that is off the ground and their hands can reach. When they get to it, their natural curiosity has them try to see what’s up there, or what’s on the other side. They become successful at it when the ability of their muscles matches their curiosity!

For those kids that require a little more help, here are some ideas you can try:

  • Sit to Stand – If your child can already sit independently, have them sit on a small stool really close to the couch or an activity table or a chair. Have a preferred toy or activity on the support surface. Help them to put their hands on the support surface and move into standing. Let them play for a bit and then bring them back down into sitting and repeat again. This helps them to strengthen their leg muscles, as well as learn that if they move into the new position, there might be something they like there!
  • Playing at Support Surfaces of Various Heights – When your child can crawl, or even kneel, create an environment where they have different heights to explore on. This could be the couch, the coffee table, an activity table, an overturned storage bin, a foot stool, etc. Put toys or activities that are motivating to the them on the support surfaces, and be there to engage as well. They may begin to experiment with pushing or pulling up onto extended legs. You can also line them up near each other. For instance, have the activity table touching the couch and a little bit away have an overturned bin touching the couch so that you have made a U of activities at various heights. Let them start at the lowest height and then make them aware of the activities or toys at the higher height. They can use the lower height to help them problem solve how to reach the higher height. This can also help them learn how to lower back down to the ground because they may want to get back to the toy or activity at the lower height again.
  • Crawling Over Obstacles – Learning to crawl over obstacles helps kids to develop their total body strength as well as have to problem solve how to get to where they want. This can involve pushing up onto extended legs before they go over the obstacle, or even just crawling right over. It engages their curiosity about what is ‘on the other side’ and if you use toys that are motivating, they can crawl back and forth along the same obstacle path for many repetitions! Use your legs, couch pillows, piles of blankets or towels, small upside down storage containers, etc.
  • Manual Assistance – And sometimes you just have to give them the extra support and take them through the motions. So if you are at a support surface, and they are on their knees with their hands on the surface, help them bring one leg forward so their foot is resting on the floor (half kneel) and then give them a little boost at the hips to go all the way up into standing. Take turns with which side you help them with so they get to develop strength in both legs, as well as so that each leg learns that it can push without the other leg right next to it!

What are other ways you have taught kids to pull to stand?

April 30, 2017

Strong Outer Hips (aka abductors)

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 12:00 am
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bridgingside step hip abduction

One of the muscles we focus on when we are working with kids, or young adult (or even ourselves if we’re being honest) is the hip abductor, or the outer hip muscle. This muscle may be on the smaller side but it is mighty!

When this muscle is strong it helps to stabilize your hips for every day activities like walking, standing, running, climbing stairs, crawling, and on and on and on. If you have a strong hip abductor and you pick up your foot to take a step it will hold your hips level so that you have a nice smooth walking pattern. If your hip abductor is weak, it will not be able to keep your hips level and when you take a step a few things could happen. Two of the most common things are:

  1. when you pick your foot up, your hip on that side will drop down as compared to the hip on the other side, or
  2. when you pick your foot up, you will lean your head and trunk away from that foot so that you are creating a counter balance to help keep you stable.

So why is this a problem? Here are a few reasons:

  • For a little one first learning to walk, if they don’t have the stability at their hips it makes it harder to take those independent steps and they will want to hold on to support surfaces longer
  • For a little one first learning to crawl, they may have finally mastered getting on to their hands and knees, but they don’t have the stability to lift one of their legs to bring it forward, and every time they try they collapse back down on to their belly
  • For someone who may have spasticity or higher muscle tone in their inner hip muscles (adductors), they may scissor their legs when they walk (cross them in the middle rather than stepping straight in front). If their abductors are strong they can help to counteract the scissoring pull and make walking a bit more efficient.
  • For anyone working on running, your hips will do the same thing as with walking if its weak, except you are putting more stress on your knee with every step you run. This can lead to overuse injuries and knee problems that can cause pain and lead to limited physical activity.

So what can you do? Here are a few ideas for exercises:

  • Sidestepping – depending on the age and skill of the child, this can look like cruising back and forth at a support surface, or it can be walking sideways down a hallway, or even adding resistance tubing/banding while walking sideways (make sure to lead with each foot)
  • Bridging – depending on the age and skill of the child, this can look like lying on their back with their knees bent and their feet flat on the floor and having them lift up their bottom (you can make it fun by driving cars under the ‘bridge’ or rolling balls under), or it can be holding the bridge position for longer periods of time, or while you are in the bridge position lifting one foot off the ground and then the other, or just doing one leg bridges, or even adding a resistance band around your thighs to push against while doing two leg bridges
  • Climbing – depending on the age and skill of the child, this can look like crawling up and down stairs (or couches), climbing on ladders at the park, using a climbing wall (even better is to traverse side ways on a climbing wall or park climbing structure)

What are some ways you have worked on the abductors?

April 25, 2017

The Value of Peer Play

peer play

I was recently at a school working with a kiddo. This child has made huge gains and is now easily able to access her school environment. The one area that is still a slight struggle is the play structure. She is able to do all points of access on all the play structures in her school. The challenge is that she doesn’t want to. And she doesn’t want to because she thinks she can’t. Even after doing it successfully she will still not want to do certain ladders. The other challenge is that if I push her, there is a potential for a meltdown. So I have walked the fine line between challenging and stepping back, in order to boost her confidence on the various ladders of the play structure. Now don’t get me wrong, she will do the stairs, the slide, and most standard ladders. Its just when they look a little different that she doesn’t want to do them.

So, back to my story. This day, while we were heading out to the play yard for recess after doing some work in the motor room, her friend from her class ran up and asked her to come play. They usually play together but it generally involves running around and trying to tag each other. This time her friend wanted to go on the play structure. She went with him and she climbed up the stairs and then I could see him coaxing her to do the ladders with him. He got her to climb down one ladder and then patiently brought her to each ladder and stayed with her the whole way up, encouraging her and showing her how he did it. There were times she would only go up about two steps and then come back down and run away. He was able to run up to her and bring her back in a way that she was still having fun and laughing, that I wouldn’t have been able to do. She didn’t realize he was making her work, she just saw it as playing with her friends.

Its moments like this that I love being able to step back and observe the kids I work with interacting with their peers. This interaction was just as, if not more important, than the time I spent with her.

What are ways you encourage peer play and then step back and let them go?

April 8, 2017

Fun with Balance Beams

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 11:39 pm
Tags: , , , ,

balance beam 1

I don’t know about you but balance beams are one of our staples to use with kids. As I was writing this post, I looked around and realized just how many different ones we have, and we actually use them all!

Clearly having a kid walk on a balance beam will work on their balance.  If forces them to narrow their base of support which challenges their balance. You can make it as easy or as difficult as you want.

balance beam 2

Some things to take into consideration when you are selecting which beam to use:

  • Wider is less difficult than narrow
  • Firm is less difficult than soft and squishy
  • Straight is less difficult than curved or zig zag
  • Lower to the ground is less difficult than higher off the ground

That being said, there are times we will use one that is more challenging than you would think appropriate for the child. We might use a higher one, even though the child is still struggling with one low to the ground. This could be because when it is low to the ground they try to go too fast, or step off too easily.  When its higher they may slow down and take more deliberate steps.

balance-beam-3.jpg

I’ve been asked why we don’t just use some tape on the ground. Well we do, but that doesn’t have the same effect as being elevated off the ground. When the child is off the ground, most times, they have a sense of it and are more cautious. It can work on their confidence for novel situations, or even help with their fear of falling as they practice being successful over and over.

We have several kids who like to move, and use movement to find their stability. They actually have a harder time doing things that require them to be still. By giving them a balance beam to walk on, they are challenged and most often have to slow down which can help work on their static stability.

balance-beam-4.jpg

Now walking is the easiest way to use a balance beam. Its the most common way we use it, but that doesn’t mean its the only way. Some of the other ways we have used balance beams are:

  • Side stepping – Have the child take sideways steps to the left and the right to cross the beam. This works best if they are going out and back so they get both sides, but if they are only going one way, just have them switch the direction they are facing as they walk each time.
  • Blindfolded – This helps to work on their awareness of their bodies and decreases their ability to use vision to help their balance. Check out our post on using animal masks to work on balance!
  • Squats – As the child walks along the beam they can squat down to pick up treasure in front of them, or they can turn to the side to pick up treasure on the floor.  Usually treasure is a bean bag or a puzzle piece or a Squigz or whatever has captured their fancy that session!
  • Catch – Have the child stand on the balance beam and play catch with them. If there isn’t anyone spotting them make sure they are in a safe place if they lose their balance
  • Backwards – Walking backwards is another challenge to balance and body awareness. A fun way to incorporate it is to have the child go through the ‘adventure’ backwards. Anything novel usually captures their attention for a short period of time!
  • Jumping – We have jumped on them like bunnies, jumped over them like obstacles, and used them to practice side to side jumping.

vision-free-balance

What are other ways you have used balance beams?

 

August 1, 2016

Developmental Playgroup – Self-Help (Part 1)

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

drinking2

This past week we looked at Self-Help skills during our developmental playgroups.  Here is a brief overview of some of the things discussed.  We will provide more detail in coming weeks!

Birth- 4 months:

  • Express the need for food by crying
  • Signal the need for diaper changes
  • Express pleasure when placed in warm water (bathing)
  • Will eventually begin to help by using their own hands to guide the nipple

4-8 months:

  • Show interest in feeding activities
  • Can pull off their own socks
  • Can velcro closures on clothing

8-12 months:

  • Begin to hold their own cup and drink
  • Begin to eat finger foods
  • Begin to pull off soiled or wet diaper
  • Begin to sleep until 6 or 8 am.

12-24 months:

  • Use a spoon to some degree to feed themselves
  • Have good control of a cup
  • Begin to try and wash themselves
  • Begin to help with dressing
  • By age 2 they may begin to gain control of bowels and bladder

24-36 months:

  • Increasingly able to feed self and use cup/glass
  • Can generally undress themselves
  • Show signs of being ready for toilet training

Activities/ Things to remember when teaching or promoting self help skills:

  • Decreasing amount of assistance given during activities (ie less assistance with silverware during mealtimes)
  • Establish a routine/create a daily schedule
  • Focus on the learning instead of the length of time to finish the task
  • Rewards are best when naturally occurring in the environment

 

7 Self-Care Milestones to Look Forward To:

As the sense of self increases, so will your child’s achievements in self-care. He’ll naturally develop and fine-tune his motor skills over the next three years to master:

  1. Using a fork and spoon: Some toddlers start wanting to use utensils as early as 13 months, and most children have figured out this all-important skill by 17 or 18 months. By age 4, your child will probably be able to hold utensils like an adult and be ready to learn table manners.
  2. Undressing: While the ability to take his own clothes off may lead to lots of naked-toddler chase sessions, it’s a key accomplishment. Most children learn to do it sometime between 13 and 24 months.
  3. Toothbrushing: Your child may start wanting to help with this task as early as 16 months, but probably won’t be able to handle a toothbrush skillfully until sometime between her third and fourth birthdays. Even then, dentists say, kids can’t do a thorough job on their teeth until much later.
    • Pediatric dentists recommend that parents do a thorough brushing of their kids’ teeth every night until school age or later. As a compromise, if your child is eager to brush, let her do the morning brushing herself. Or let her brush first, and then you finish up.
  4. Washing and drying hands: This skill develops at 24 months or so and is something kids should learn before or at the same time as using the toilet – you don’t want your child spreading germs.
  5. Getting dressed: Your little one may be able to put on loose clothing as early as 24 months, but he’ll need a few more months before being able to manage a T-shirt, and another year or two after that before he’ll really be able to get dressed all by himself. Also at 24 months, he’ll probably be able to pull off his shoes.
  6. Using the toilet: Most kids aren’t physically ready to start toilet training until they’re at least 18 to 24 months old. Two key signs of readiness for a child include being able to pull her pants up and down by herself and knowing when she has to go before it happens.
  7. Preparing breakfast: Toddlers as young as 3 may be able to get themselves a bowl of cereal when they’re hungry, and most kids can do it by the time they’re 4 1/2. If your child wants to give this a whirl, make it easy by leaving kid-size containers of cereal and milk in the cupboard and fridge.

References:

  1. http://www.floridahealth.gov/AlternateSites/CMS-Kids/providers/early_steps/training/itds/module1/lesson1_3.html
  2. http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=676
  3. http://www.childcarequarterly.com/summer08_story2.html
  4. http://www.babycenter.com/0_toddler-milestone-self-care_6503.b

July 25, 2016

Developmental Playgroup – Cognition (Part 1)

Under

Cognition was the most recent topic at the Developmental Playgroups this past week.  It is broken down into: Cause and Effect, Spatial Relationships, Problem Solving, Imitation, Memory, Number Sense, Classification, Symbolic Play, Attention Maintenance, and Understanding of Personal Care Routines.  Because it covers such a wide range, for the purposes of the blog, we will break it into smaller components.  This post covers Cause and Effect, and Spatial Relationships.

Cause and Effect:  Cause and Effect looks at a relationship between actions/events and what the reslt is.  This concept helps infants/children to develop an understanding of object properties, relationships between and event and the consequences, and patterns of human behavior. By developing an understanding of this concept, infants/children are able to build their abilities to solve problems, make predictions, and understand the impact their behavior has on others.

  • Examples: crying and being picked up, shaking a toy and hearing it make noises, pushing a button on a toy and having music play.

Some milestones/age appropriate activities for this concept are:

  • 4-7 months:
    • Hear a loud noise and turn head in the direction of the noise
    • Explore toys with hands and mouth
    • Move body in a rocking motion to get the infant care teacher to continue rocking
  • 8 months: Children perform simple actions to make things happen, notice the relationships between events, and notice the effects of others on the immediate environment.
    • Shake toy, hear the sound and shake it again
    • Watch someone wind up a toy and then touch the toy trying to make it go off again
    • Push button on toy to watch it light up/something pop out.
  • 9-17 months:
    • Bang two blocks together
    • Keep turning objects to find the side that works (mirror or nesting cup)
    • Cry and anticipate someone to come help them
    • Continuously drop an item to have someone come pick it up
    • Watch someone perform an action and then try to imitate- squeeze water toys.
  • 18 months: Children combine simple actions to cause things to happen or change the way they interact with objects and people in order to see how it changes the outcome.
    • Attempt to wind up the toy after not getting the lid to open
    • Drop various objects from different heights to observe how they fall – what noise they make
    • Making tower of blocks and knocking them over
  • 36 months:
    • Demonstrate an understanding of cause and effect by making predictions about what could happen and reflect upon what caused something to happen
    • Communicates that they miss someone/cries after they leave
    • Make a prediction about what will happen next in the story
    • Ask what happened if they see a band aid

Spatial Relationships: Spatial Relationship looks at how an object is located in relation to a reference object.  Understanding this concept helps infants/children gain a better understanding of numbers as they get older as well as how things move and fit in space.

  • Examples: exploring objects with their mouths, tracking objects and people visually, squeezing into tight spaces, fitting objects into openings, and looking at things from different perspectives (Mangione, Lally, and Signer 1992).

Some milestones/age appropriate activities for this concept are:

  • 4 to 7 months:
    • Look and explore their own hand
    • Reach for nearby items
    • Explore toys with hands and mouth
  • 8 months: Children move their bodies, explore the size and shape of objects, and observe people and objects as they move through space.
    • Use vision or hearing to track the path of someone walking by
    • Hold one stacking cup in each hand
  • 9-17 months:
    • Roll a car back and forth on the floor
    • Dump toys out of a container
    • Move over and between cushions and pillows on the floor
    • Put the circle piece of a puzzle into the round opening, after trying the triangle opening and the square opening
  • 18 months: Children use trial and error to discover how things move and fit in space.
    • Go around the back of a chair to get the toy car that rolled behind it instead of trying to follow the car’s path by squeezing underneath the chair
    • Use two hands to pick up a big truck, but only one hand to pick up a small one
    • Put a smaller nesting cup inside a larger cup after trying it the other way around.
  • 19 -35 months:
    • Complete a puzzle of three separate cut-out pieces, such as a circle, square, and triangle
    • Turn a book right-side up after realizing that it is upside down
    • Fit four nesting cups in the correct order, even if it takes a couple of tries

We will go over the remaining concepts in some follow up posts!

References:

http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09cogdev.asp#sr

http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09cogdevfdcsr.asp

http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09cogdevfdps.asp

http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09cogdevfdimit.asp

http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09cogdevfdmem.asp

http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09cogdevfdclas.asp

http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09cogdevfdpers.asp

http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09cogdevfdattm.asp

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Cognitive-Development-8-to-12-Months.aspx

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April 23, 2016

Why Your Child’s Inner Ear is Important for More Than Hearing

Standing Vestibular

Imagine learning to stand for the first time, but everything around you appears to move. You can’t stabilize your gaze and everything sort of spins. Now imagine learning to walk for the first time, except you can’t focus on an object for balance. Either would be tough for anyone, especially a child.

That ability to focus your sight – That’s what’s called your vestibular system – and it’s not a part of your eye. It’s actually in your inner ear. It plays a large role in balance, telling you where your head is in space. In turn, your body responds to what you vestibular system is telling you.

But the vestibular system also plays a part in stabilizing your gaze. Try looking at an object in the room. While keeping the object in focus, shake your head from left to right – are you a little dizzy? Maybe… But were you able to keep that object in focus? Probably. That’s because, while you were shaking your head from side to side, your vestibular system was communicating with little muscles around your eye, telling them to respond, which allows you to keep your focus (known as the vestibular ocular reflex, or VOR).

And if you weren’t able to keep the object in focus? Well, it makes balance and development that much more difficult.

What could be a sign that your child’s vestibular system isn’t working properly? Some children may have trouble standing without holding onto a surface, and even fall when standing at a table without reacting to the fall (think of a falling tree). Others may have trouble walking without holding on to an adult or surface, with a tendency to rely too heavily on that support, at times appearing as an impulsive movement.

If you notice or are concerned about your child’s vestibular function, it’s a good idea to discuss it with your child’s pediatrician. They can make a good assessment or help refer you to a specialist.

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