Whoa... Put Me Down! Don't Tip Me Over Like That! I'm Falling! Does YOUR Child Show Signs of Gravitational Insecurity?

Gravitational insecurity? As a parent, this was often hard to watch. Here's how it affected my daughter...

Gravitational insecurity kept her off the playground for the first few years of her life, unless:

- she sat on my lap going down the slide or while swinging on a swing

- I supported her body and stuck right with her while she climbed those "death defying" ladders/stairs... "Come on mommy!" she would shout

- Oh, and don't EVEN think about those netted/rope bridges that you walk across! Brakes on... reverse... no way!

Gravitational insecurity kept her out of other people's loving arms... If she could have expressed herself it might have sounded like this:

- "If they hold me, I don't know what they will do! I'm scared!"

- "NO!!... Don't throw me up in the air like that. I don't care if other kids like it, I don't!"

- "NO!!... Don't tip me upside down!! I don't care if you think it's cute!"

- "Quick, give me back to mommy! SHE knows what I like (and don't like)!"

Gravitational insecurity (and tactile defensiveness) kept her in the ball pit only; never venturing up those scary tubes and slides at McDonald's play land and Chuck E. Cheese (oh, except that one time I had to go in and rescue her...paralyzed in fear and crying... I THOUGHT she was taking awfully long to come down!)

Gravitational insecurity (and tactile defensiveness) kept her out of the hairdresser's and dentist's chairs, and far away from ever trying to wash her hair over the sink for a quick spruce up... "NO!! Don't tip my body or head back like that!! Hey, where am I going?? I'm FALLING!" I'm scared... get my feet back on the ground!! (she might have said)

Gravitational insecurity made her freak out when she had her OT evaluation and the therapist tried to lay her back on a giant exercise ball. That movement was not only scary, but anytime someone else moves one of these kiddos, it is ten times more frightening!

Gravitational insecurity made her sit down and have a panicked look on her face while riding elevators. Gravitational insecurity has kept her from learning how to do a somersault (on the ground) or attempting any sort of dive into a pool even to this day (age 11).

So What's A Parent To Do?

  • First, LISTEN TO YOUR CHILD. Pay attention to your child's fears and be a careful observer of their reactions.

  • Second, try to identify this issue as early as possible in their lives; know the signs! The younger she is when you recognize possible vestibular dysfunction (click here for the SPD Checklist), the more we can successfully work on this issue. If it goes on too long, they will have missed major developmental milestones and be an anxious, possibly controlling, frightened, lower self-esteemed kiddo.

  • Third, get an OT or PT evaluation done by a qualified professional who is familiar with Sensory Processing Disorders/Sensory Integration Dysfunction.

  • Fourth, start "treatment".

    (Check out "Treatment Guidelines" for some general "rules")

    Here Are Two Of Our Favorite Activities That Helped Our Daughter...

    1. Trying movements in the water that she was uncomfortable doing on land.

    Water is therapeutic in so many ways. Beyond the usual benefits, SPD kiddos particularly benefit from it due to the change in "gravitational pull" and the whole body, deep pressure input it gives them. This has an amazingly calming affect, not only for these gravitationally insecure kiddos, but for those with tactile defensiveness, the sensory seekers, those with regulation and modulation difficulties, and those with proprioceptive dysfunction. For the gravitationally insecure, the water helps calm their system with deep pressure and allows them a better sense of security as one's body feels "weightless" and safer because a potential "fall" doesn't hurt the way it does on

    So, be creative. Do anything you can think of in a pool! In the off season, many clubs have pools with certain swim times for kids to use... we go to our local health club.

    What to do? Climb steps, step over things, dive for toys, try a handstand (in waist or chest deep water), practice sitting on unstable surfaces (pool toys), climb on and off inflatable water toys, teach them to swim under water (give them goggles and have them swim between your legs or other objects), and if you're really lucky try a somersault or "frog dive". Find their comfort level and work your way up!

    And, if you have the resources to do it, I would even suggest the short sleeve children's wet suits they make, for some extra deep pressure input!

    2. Play the amusement ride game (this was our favorite!)

    Mom or Dad lie down on their belly. Child climbs on top and straddles them. Child puts a "quarter" into slot (mom/dad's head) and the ride starts (just like at the grocery store/Walmart etc.) How much Mom or Dad does will depend on the level of the child's insecurity.

    Mom/Dad, start by asking the child "what am I". Our kiddo would say, "a dolphin, a bear, a lion, an airplane a car, etc..." Now, Mom/Dad/Auntie/ Uncle...make your body move like it is one of those rides. As the child progresses, get them up in the air (you on all fours a-movin' and a-shakin') My daughter used to say, "rides over" when she wanted to stop or change the type of movement.

    Make sure you do stop when they say stop... her dear dad didn't listen to her one time and just kept going... she kept patting him saying louder and louder, "rides over, daddy" and ended up laying down on his back instead of sitting up because that was just too much input for her (that particular time daddy was an airplane using one arm to fly, one to support himself on the floor, and he went up, down, and sideways)!

    The bottom line? If gravitational insecurity keeps your child from doing or enjoying things other kids their age do... find an OT!

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    For More Activities To Improve The Vestibular Sense Check Out...

    The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun, Revised Edition: Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder (The Out-of-Sync Child Series) - has a chapter with specific activites on improving the vestibular sense, balance and movement.

    Everyday Games for Sensory Processing Disorder: 100 Playful Activities to Empower Children with Sensory Differences

    Gravitational Insecurity Resources

    T Stools - Helps improve sense of balance, body awareness, and postural stability and motor planning.

    Teeter Totters - a teeter totter improves body awareness, motor control, postural stability, and self esteem.

    Trampolines - Jumping on a trampoline provides strong vestibular input, deep pressure to the muscles and joints which improve proprioception and gross motor skills, and stimulates the speech and language centers of the brain.

    Peanut Balls

    Gym Mats

    Bean Bag Chairs

    Anna Banana: 101 Jump Rope Rhymes

    Further Reading

    Sensory Overresponsivity (Sensory Defensiveness) - A concise summary of the variety of types of Sensory Overresponsivity (sensory defensiveness) and what to do about it.

    Sensory Processing Disorders - How does it REALLY feel to have SPD? Come take a realistic look at how a world is perceived by an SPD child or adult.

    Leave Gravitational Insecurity And Return To SPD Home Page

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