Vestibular Input and How We Make Sure Joaquin Gets Moving

Vestibular Input and How We Make Sure Joaquin Gets Moving

Getting vestibular input for our guy!

This one is for all of you special needs mamas…how many times did you hear the term “vestibular input” before you had your amazing little one? Me? Zero. Absolutely never! Now, well now I hear it all the time.

So what is vestibular input (for those of you new to all of this) well, directly from “” here’s their definition: Vestibular input (the sense of movement, centered in the inner ear). Any type of movement will stimulate the vestibular receptors, but spinning, swinging, and hanging upside down provide the most intense, longest lasting input.

How Do You Get Vestibular Input

Kiddos naturally get this input by crawling, rolling, walking and running but kiddos like Joaquin, who struggle with mobility, need this extra help.

Joaquin didn’t start scooting until he was about 2 1/2, prior to this the only way he moved around was if an adult was moving him. At 3 1/2 he’s working on crawling and he’s walking in his walker but it’s still not enough. He can’t get into the walker unless someone helps (at this point) so he’s still only walking with an adults help and supervision.

Our daughter has been walking since she was 9 months, she gets up and goes whenever she wants to, she has independence and she doesn’t rely on an adult to move. This is why it’s so important for us to keep Joaquin moving! We know he’s going to have full independence and move on his own but until then he needs the extra help so we are working with his therapists to get him as much movement as possible!

We try to make sure Joaquin gets swing time throughout the day, we take it easy not a lot of spinning. I really like to get him in his swing first thing in the morning before school just to get his body in motion in a calming way. I don’t know if it helps with his day but he seems to enjoy it!

Joaquin Swing Therapy
We use Joaquin’s cocoon swing to make sure he’s getting that vestibular input!

How Do You Explain It?

My stepson (11) asked me why it’s important for Joaquin to be in a swing. Well, I didn’t have an easy answer for him, I tried to explain it but I could tell I was losing him. So I came up with a simple analogy and I’m no expert but I think I helped him understand. I said “it’s like when you make chocolate milk, you pour the chocolate in and then you have to stir it. If you just let the chocolate sit in there without stirring it you’d never make chocolate milk. So Joaquin needs us to help him move around to get everything mixed up the way it needs to be”.

Was it the best explanation? I don’t know but it made sense to him and now he “understands” his brothers needs a little better.

What We Use

Currently, we use a cocoon swing but we are working on getting a platform swing and we’ll be working not only on vestibular input but on his balance to gain that protective extension he’s missing.

Swing Therapy

If you’re new to swing therapy I would highly suggest you talk to therapists and find out the dos and don’ts of swinging. Just an example, I started spinning Joaquin in his cocoon swing, he looked like he was loving it! I mentioned it to his PT and she said I shouldn’t just be spinning him. She gave me some pointers:

  1. Not too fast (oops)
  2. Not too long (another oops)
  3. Wait for his eyes to stop doing that “side to side” thing after spinning before spinning again
  4. Spin clockwise then break (step 3) and spin counterclockwise
  5. Not too long of a swing session, keep it at 10 minutes but not over (remember this is Joaquin’s therapist talking about what’s best for Joaquin – your kiddo might need something different)

Those aren’t steps I’m recommending to you. I just want to show you that I was just spinning him (fast!), I didn’t know that I should be doing this any certain way so I am really glad I brought it up to his PT and she gave me some guidelines!

We learn so much on this special needs journey and I don’t pretend to know it all, I’m learning every day! If you have any tips or suggestions please, drop them in the comments! We are always happy and grateful to learn new things.

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