Vestibular Stimulation and Autism

Updated July 18, 2017

Most people are familiar with the five senses of taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing. These are the far senses. Less familiar are the near senses: tactile, proprioceptive, and vestibular. Author and educator Carol Stock Kranowitz, M.A., defines sensory processing as the methods by which the brain perceives and organises the information it receives from our bodies through our far and near senses.

Autism Prevalence

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the occurrence of autism spectrum disorders has grown to an average of 1 in 110 children.

Autism Characteristics

The Autism Society of America (ASA) defines autism as a disorder affecting each child uniquely, but primarily affecting communication/language abilities, social skills, patterns of behaviour and sensory processing.

Vestibular Sense

The vestibular sense enables the brain to process the body's movement, balance and gravity. This sense is often compromised in individuals with autism.

Vestibular Disturbance

According to Kranowitz, vestibular challenges may express themselves in multiple ways: either intolerance to or cravings for movement, problems with balance, poor muscle tone and language or visual processing difficulties.

Vestibular Stimulation

The vestibular sense is our most primal sense, says Kranowitz, and while parents can offer vestibular stimulation activities such as spinning, rocking and jumping, she also urges them to proceed slowly and to seek help from an occupational therapist trained in sensory integration.

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About the Author

Alinda Quinn Ford has been a writer/consultant for more than eight years. She has specialized in business/marketing and academic writing, with in-depth knowledge about children with special needs. Ford earned an M.A. in English in 2003 and taught English at the secondary and/or college level for 12 years.