Thursday, February 23, 2012

Vestibular System

Vestibular is a word I never heard of until Chloe's Vision Therapist, Linda, brought it up a few months ago. It involves the inner ear, which sends signals to our neural structures that control eye movements. It affects our balance and ability to stay upright. A much better and thorough explanation can be found here.

The whole concept is little fuzzy to me but Linda has always been adamant that Vestibular Activities are very important for Chloe. I know that she loves them but didn't really comprehend the importance until recently.

  • A little background on Chloe's vision: It's inconsistent. We never know what it's going to be from day to day. Some days she's great and others she's...off. The thing is that Chloe adapts amazingly well so sometimes we don't notice. She could run around the house blind-folded and, unless we looked to see the blindfold we wouldn't even notice. For example, a few days ago I made a horrible mistake. I put her contacts in the wrong eyes. One eye is severely far-sighted and the other is extremely near-sighted. You can imagine that I basically made her blind for the two hours that she wore them that way. We played in the living room for a while. She ran around picking up and playing with toys like nothing was wrong. In fact, I think she even watched a little Dora while I got dressed. Then we went out to breakfast with my friend, Angela. I handed Chloe some paper and crayons and she put her face right into the paper to color and then lost interest pretty quickly. It wasn't until then that I noticed anything was wrong. If I hadn't handed her something that absolutely required vision - something she hadn't already memorized - I might have let her go all day like that without knowing.

We spent a week in Houston around Christmastime and returned to Dayton shortly after. Texas was sunny and wonderful. Chloe's vision is actually better on sunny clear days. When we returned to Dayton it was cloudy and gray. After a day or so, all the good vision energy she'd built up in Texas wore off and she started stumbling around like she'd just stepped off a boat. It was disconcerting to me. I thought about vestibular and put Chloe in the "Bubble." Chloe previously hated the Bubble but I had her lay in it this time to feel more secure and...it helped. It actually helped! And she loved it!

I talked to Linda about it and she wasn't surprised to hear that Chloe's vision went downhill after returning from sunny Texas. She's planning a move to Florida and, being visually impaired herself, is thrilled at the idea living somewhere that's always sunny. It's like a new world opens up for her when she's there and I can see her eyes twinkle when she describes the crispness of her vision in Florida. She said that she needs vestibular exercises every day and has 4 swings at her house. A while back she had to have neck surgery because she injured her neck after years of tilting her head. For six weeks she was miserable because she couldn't do any swinging. She couldn't sleep. A little light started flashing in my head when she said that. "Vestibular exercises help you sleep better," I asked. Absolutely. I thought about the fact that Chloe's been skipping some naps and taking longer to fall asleep - tossing and turning a lot. It didn't seem unusual to me until Linda's comment.

The next day I put Chloe in the bubble before her nap. She normally naps 1.5 hours. She napped for 4 hours that day! We've been focusing more on the bubble and other vestibular activities since them. Some others Linda recommended are:
  1. Swinging in a blanket - Two adults hold the ends of the blanket and swing side to side and even up and down.
  2. Log Rolling - rolling across the floor or a mat
  3. Crawling - and rocking back and forth while on hands and knees (something Chloe used to do a lot when she was a crawler).
  4. Swinging - Chloe could swing for hours. We're considering installing a swing in our house but aren't sure about the bolting system required and expense. And with Spring on its way we'll probably be getting outside more. We'll see...
  5. Therapy Ball - These are those huge balls that you see people sitting on instead of chairs. Kids can sit on it and bounce (with adult support) or gently roll back and forth.
  6. Sit and Spin - Chloe loves any type of spinning. She'll stand in the living room (usually close to the entertainment system) and spin and spin and spin.
  7. Mini Tramp - We're still trying to teach Chloe to jump but she's getting closer every day and loves practicing on her mini trampoline. Sometimes I carry her while jumping on it.
  8. Stroller - Chloe's OT and PT mentioned that riding in a wagon or stroller also provide vestibular input. It got up into the 50's outside yesterday so I bundled Chloe up and we went for a jog. 40 minutes at jogging speed must have done the body good. She slept in an hour and a half this morning.
A little non-traditional bubble play
Solana is spinning Chloe by placing her finger in one of the holes and then spinning her. Solana doesn't normally do the spinning but she loves showing off and being in front of the camera so we let her this time.
Sometimes dollies, stuffed animals, and blankies get the honor of joining Chloe in the bubble.
When I spin Chloe I spin her FAST and for minutes at a time. Every time I stop she says, "More pinning bubble?" I swear that, were I to spin like that, I would literally be throwing up. Chloe barely gets dizzy. I'm sure that has to do with our vision/balance connection being so different.

I'm glad to finally be on the vestibular activities band wagon. I think it's good for her and can tell she really enjoys it. Linda says that, as Chloe gets older, she'll recognize when she needs vestibular activities and do them herself or ask for them.

3 comments:

catchupdaphne.com said...

That is SO interesting. Who knew the vestibular system had to do with vision? The things we are forced to learn... I have to say, that bubble looks like fun. Too bad Chloe is still too short for roller coasters ;-)

A Goldsworthy Note said...

That's so interesting. Thanks for sharing. By the sound of it Chloe needs to come and visit me since we're only 10 miles from Florida :0) Also, she needs go up in an acrobatic plane with Joe!

Holbergs said...

Ok...These pictures help me "see" what you were talking about now! It makes much more sense! Thanks!