How to Support Vestibular Discrimination Disorder

Vestibular discrimination disorder affects one’s ability to interpret movement, including the speed and direction of one’s own body. It is one of the eight subtypes of Sensory Discrimination Disorder (SDD) and one of many manifestations of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Learn more about SPD and its subtypes here.

See below for some ways to identify and support discrimination challenges.

Those with Vestibular Discrimination Disorder May:

  • Appear clumsy or uncoordinated.
  • Have poor posture or jerky, awkward movements.
  • Have difficulty determining their head or body position.
  • Be unable to determine their speed and direction of movement.
  • Have difficulty distinguishing right vs. left and may not appear to have a dominant hand.
  • Be unable to tell when they’re starting to fall and unable to catch themselves in time.
  • Have poor spatial awareness and depth perception.

How to Support Vestibular Discrimination Disorder:

  • Hold your child’s hand while walking to provide grounding and support.
  • Be cautious and attentive around bicycles, swings, and other playground equipment.
  • Play games to practice telling the difference between right and left, forwards and backwards, etc. (“Watch me spin in a circle—am I turning to the right or left? Now you try turning to the right.”)
  • Play games to practice balancing and preventing falls. Have your child sit in on a bicycle while you stand in front with a firm grip on the handle bars. Slowly tilt the bike in either direction and have him/her practice placing the correct foot down before falling.

Keep in mind that no two children are exactly alike, and most people exhibit both seeking and avoiding behaviors from time to time. If you think your child might be suffering from sensory processing issues, you should seek a professional assessment. The STAR Institute’s Treatment Directory is a great resource that can help you find therapists, doctors, and community resources in your area.

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