Ellie loves fast, strong and rhythmic movement and always has done. Now she is nearly 3yrs old she is largely capable of providing this movement for herself with little assistance, which is a bit of a relief for us! Vestibular Stimulation is what Ellie seeks. I recently found this paper which I thought summarised the reasons quite succinctly. This is an extract taken from ‘Visual impairment and occupational therapy’, RNIB’s March 2011 issue of the Insight magazine. Written by Catherine Southwell (QTVI, Wolverhampton) and Debbie Hunt (Senior Occupational Therapist, Wolverhampton PCT).
‘Sighted people get all the vestibular stimulation they need during rhythmic and confident forward movement, eg brisk walking. A blind child will often seek vestibular stimulation, but cannot walk with the same confidence and rhythm. Rocking from one foot to the other, or rocking while seated gives the same vestibular effect but with a stable base from which to move.
Rocking is also comforting, as new parents, pacing the bedroom floor with a crying baby, at 3.00am will verify! Adults in distress will often rock too. Sometimes rocking may be a way to alleviate boredom – after all, a blind child can’t sit and watch the world go by. Equally, they can’t observe that other people don’t rock!’
They key is to be able to identify what a child gets from such stimulation and replicate it with something of the same benefit whilst also being more socially acceptable.
We encourage Ellie to use play equipment and try to promote her confidence in movement in order to satisfy her needs. She is learning to propel herself on the swing and can spin herself on her bounce and spin toy zebra. She can also spin on the spot but does not have the balance to spin as fast so prefers the zebra for more ‘extreme spinning’! Here is a video of Ellie spinning: