Ways to Calm Kids Down Using Vestibular Input
Updated: Nov 13
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It can be extremely overwhelming and frustrating to try and calm down your anxious, stressed, or crying child. It can be even more confusing when you are looking to work with a healthcare professional. Occupational therapists, psychologists, dietitians and physicians all promote their roles within stress and anxiety. How do you know which one to choose?
I was recently talking to a friend who put it like this: “we (all the healthcare professionals all have the same outcome in mind (our client’s well-being) but how we go about getting there is different.” The key to choosing the right healthcare professional for your situation is knowing what each one does, and what can help in your child’s personal situation – aka which area can be improved on and refined.
From an occupational therapy perspective, we play a variety of roles in this area. This includes introducing coping skills, educating on the stress response, and organizing the sensory system. Today, I’d like to focus on one area of the sensory system that can be improved to help with stress management.
From an OT perspective, I often view stress and anxiety as a person being “overstimulated.” In other words, their sensory system is overwhelmed and needs to be calmed down. There a variety of strategies that can be used to calm down each of the sensory systems and decrease stress.
The system we are discussing today is the vestibular sense. If this is the first time you are hearing about the vestibular sense, this is the sense that tells us where our head is in relation to our body. In more simple terms it is our movement sense.
What this means is that this sense helps our body perceive if and when we are moving. It can also be a great tool for regulating our arousal (for example, calming us when we are overstimulated, or waking us up when we are fatigued).
One of most well-known examples of using the vestibular sense to calm is rocking a baby to sleep. This gentle vestibular input calms and organizes their sensory system so they can feel safe to go to sleep.
But this can also be helpful for the kids and teens I work with when they are experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety. Typically, slow, repetitive, predictable movements are the most calming, but as always, it really depends on each person and their unique needs.
As you can see in the picture, some of the ways to do this is: rocking, swinging, running around, going for a ride in a car, or riding a bike.
However, the sensory system is very complex. It is easy to "over-do" it when offering input. Therefore, if this sounds like an area that could help you, I highly recommend reaching out to a qualified occupational therapist to create a sensory diet that’s just right for your child.
This is something we can do for you at OT 4 ME!
We also offer a FREE first call with an occupational therapist to discuss your concerns and some possible ways that we can help! All you have to do is fill out this simple form, email Samantha@theot4me.com, or call/text 561-223-1620 to set up a time to chat.
Looking for some more stress management tips? Check out our blog on Stress Management Routines for Back-to-School.
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