FALL into Your Vestibular Sense

Fall brings about fair rides, fallen leaves, and slippery school slides. Many adults and children love all of the fair rides and school slides, while many do not. Some people find they cannot get enough of the teacups, and others get nauseated at just the thought of the teacups. Some children beg to slide for hours on the playground, while others want to sit on the ground and color with chalk. Some adults and children rake the leaves into a pile and jump in over and over again. Other adults and children find jumping to not feel good to their bodies. Everyone’s body is different, thus everyone’s vestibular sensory system is different.


Our vestibular sensory system is in charge of tracking our movement in the world. It lets us know if we are moving or not, if our feet are off the ground or not if our head position is up or down or spinning around, and it informs us if we are balanced or not. Sometimes an individual’s vestibular system can be over-or under-responsive to these changes in our body.



An over-response to vestibular stimuli means the body needs less input to feel okay (i.e. car sick, sensitive to being dizzy). An under-response to vestibular stimuli means the body needs more to feel okay (i.e. people who can spin for hours and never get dizzy or sick). Of course, like many things in life, people can fall on either end, in the middle, or in between in regards to levels of sensitivity.


One way to identify some sensory preferences you have, or your child has, in relation to your vestibular sense is by thinking about the following questions:

  • What kind of movement do you like? What kind of movement do you not like?

  • Do you like spinning, sliding, roller coasters?

  • Do you get dizzy?

  • Do you get carsick?

  • Do you like to be right side up or upside down?

  • Do you like or not like heights?

  • Do you like to be lifted off the ground?

Maybe thinking about those questions or attempting to imagine what it would be like does not work for you; maybe you are someone who needs to ACT to know. Another way to explore sensory preferences for yourself or your child is to engage in the following experiences that target your vestibular system. As you do them, notice how you or your child respond to them.

  • Cross-body touch toes (right hand to left foot, then reverse)

  • Play catch where the ball crosses body (right arm throws, opponent catches with right arm)

  • Lay on your back on the floor and put your feet in the air for a Ceiling Walk

  • Engage in Yoga poses as a family or alone: Try rocking your body in Boat Pose

  • Hang upside-down off the couch or the edge of the bed

  • Bounce on a therapy ball or jump on a trampoline

  • Games that require you to move your body (Twister, Tag, Simon Says, Hopscotch, Jump Rope)

  • Spin in a chair: first one direction, then the other. This helps your brain not feel dizzy!

  • Swing on a tire swing

  • Ride the teacups or other rides at an amusement park that spin or flip upside-down

Now that you have explored your vestibular sense, and maybe even identified some preferences you or your child has, it is important to recognize if your responses are neutral or are indicative of a vestibular sensitivity. One way to identify if you have an over, under, or neutral responsivity to vestibular experiences is by exploring this handout.



If at this point you are noticing that you or your child may have a vestibular sensitivity, there is no need to worry. There are professionals who are trained to assess, identify, and support sensory sensitivities and sensory processing disorders. Seeking out a professional for more information, assessment, and support is encouraged.


In the meantime, we have listed some activities and guidelines to support both over and under responsivity to vestibular experiences!


You will find some of the activities are similar, however, over-responsive individuals require more intensity in these activities, whereas under-responsive individuals can benefit from practicing these exercises to increase their tolerance to the vestibular input.


Supportive activities for when you are over-responsive to vestibular experiences:

  • Jumping, hopping, skipping, and/or wheelbarrow walks.

  • Running, bouncing, activities with Theraband, ball chair, chair fidgets

  • When planning an exercise routine, focus on: swimming, cycling, dancing, weight lifting, core exercises, exercise while laying on the ground on your stomach, and/or activities in half kneeling

  • Play catch with your friends or children

  • Go on a nature trail, walk on logs, hop on stepping stones

  • Play tug of war at family gatherings and camp

  • Deep pressure activities: wall push-ups, hand push-ups, head compression - either place your hand or a towel on the top of your head (slightly towards the front of your head) and gently pull down to apply pressure.

  • Hanging upside down

Supportive activities for when you are under response to vestibular experiences:

  • Slow walking in a straight line

  • Avoid spinning rides at amusement parks

  • When planning an exercise routine, practice moving your body in ways that support your vestibular sense: swimming, cycling, dancing, weight lifting, core exercises, exercise while laying on the ground on your stomach, and/or activities in half-kneeling.

  • Go on a nature trail, practice balancing on logs, hopping on stepping stones

  • Practice on a balance board

  • Encourage swinging or rocking chairs

  • Look straight ahead on a fixed point when in car or other places with movement

  • Deep pressure activities: wall push-ups, hand push-ups, head compression - either place your hand or a towel on the top of your head (slightly towards the front of your head) and gently pull down to apply pressure.

For more information on the vestibular sensory system and Sensory Processing Disorder, please visit any of the links below.

written by Celia Courser & Cary M Hamilton

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