The vestibular system, centered in the inner ear, is what gives us our sense of balance. It works with our auditory and visual systems to understand the three-dimensional space, or “spatial envelope,” that surrounds us wherever we go. When it’s disrupted, it can have a profound effect on a child’s ability to organize sensory input, move, and pay attention.
Astronaut Training, a cousin to Therapeutic Listening, is a system of precise sound input to all five vestibular receptors in the inner ear as well as other auditory and visual input that works to integrate the vestibular, auditory, and visual sensory systems. It was developed by Mary J. Kawar, MS, OTR, an occupational therapist. It uses rotary input (spinning) to elicit reflexive eye movements (nystagmus), which “warms up” the eyes for subsequent focused visual activities. These activities are fun and appealing to children.
The musculoskeletal system works to integrate senses such as proprioception (perception of position and movement) and touch with visual and auditory information, according to Kawar.
According to Kawar, when our vestibular-auditory-visual triad is functioning properly, “the sights and sounds of our world become meaningful and entice us to move, explore, and engage with objects, people, and events.”
Here at CTS, we have found that Astronaut Training can promote significant progress in children with visual and vestibular processing difficulty.