The Sixth and Seven Senses: The Vestibular and Proprioceptive Systems
You probably first heard of the five senses in kindergarten. You played games and practiced lessons that helped you learn about sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. However, there are two more senses that don’t typically get mentioned in school — the sixth and seventh senses – that are called the vestibular and proprioceptive systems. These systems are associated with body movement and can lead to difficulties with balance when they don’t work correctly.
The proprioceptive system provides information to your brain about your body’s position in relation to your environment (which direction you are facing, for example, or how close you are to obstacles). The proprioceptive system also tells you the amount of effort being used to move your body, and regulates both emotional responses and sensory input.
All children need to learn how to use the vestibular and proprioceptive systems, just like the other five senses.
Dysfunction in the proprioceptive system can lead your child to take actions that may seem odd, such as:
moving too quickly
crashing into things
poor awareness of where their body is and how to move it smoothly
walking on tiptoes
chewing on shirt
movements are robotic or flappy
holds writing implements too tight or too loose
looks with eyes to make body position adjustments
difficulty judging force or distance
frequent hitting/pushing incidents
The vestibular system provides information through the inner ear that tells us about our head position and how (or if) we are moving. Your understanding of movement and balance helps you coordinate the movement of your head with your eyes, enables you to use both sides of your body at the same time, tells you which direction you’re going and how fast, and enables you to remain upright. The vestibular system is your body’s internal GPS.
Activities that target the vestibular system:
using a rocking chair (or just rocking back-and-forth)
Symptoms of vestibular dysfunction:
difficulty with attention or following instructions
delay in speech or language skills
poor eye control
poor postural control (often falls from chairs)
poor hand-eye or eye-foot coordination
unsteady when walking on ground
unable to be held up in air/upside down/or spun
dislikes tilting head backwards (like in the tub to wash hair)
stabilizes themselves by walking with hands on walls
afraid to go down stairs
seems oblivious to risk of heights or moving equipment
doesn’t get dizzy even with excessive spinning or gets overly dizzy with barely any movement at all
Eyas Landing is a therapy clinic with a mission to provide evidence-based and family-centered therapy services for children, adolescents, and their families. The primary goal is to deliver relationship-based interventions within the most natural environments and to empower families to reach their full potential. To achieve this goal, our highly educated, compassionate staff dedicates time and expertise to create experiences that maximize therapeutic outcomes. The strength, determination, and perseverance of our clients are evident as they succeed in therapy, and ultimately in their daily lives.
Eyas Landing offers a wide range of comprehensive services including Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, ABA Therapy, Social Work, Family Therapy, and Neuropsych testing. Services are provided throughout the Chicagoland area via Telehealth, In-Home, and in our state of the art clinic.
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