What is Gravitational Insecurity?
Gravitational insecurity is over-reactivity to vestibular input, such as with changes in head position or movement.
A child who is experiencing gravitational insecurity might:
- Appear fearful or display out of proportion reaction to ordinary movement activities.
- Move very slowly and carefully.
- Appear overwhelmed when there is a change in head position, such as when tilting head back during hair washing.
- Refuse to use stairs, escalators, elevators, or step stools.
- Avoid using playground equipment that moves such as a seesaw (vertical movement) or using swings due to backward movement.
- Avoid uneven surfaces such as crossing a suspension bridge on a playground or walking on the sand at the beach.
- Be afraid of heights, even when at short distance from the ground.
- Resist lifting feet off the ground and will prefer remaining close to the ground.
Gravitational insecurity can have an impact on a child’s ability to participate in activities with peers that involve movement, such as playing tag on uneven ground and engaging in rough play. It can affect participation in other physical activities such as riding a bicycle, roller skating, or exploring playground equipment.
Gravitational insecurity can also affect family outings when being lifted into a car or if there are stairs, escalators, or elevators that the child has to use.
A pediatric occupational therapist can help a child with gravitational insecurity by using sensory integration during treatment sessions in order to improve their ability to process and respond to vestibular input. The occupational therapist would gradually introduce changes in head position and movement in order to allow the child to process and integrate the vestibular information at a pace that feels safe for the child. Overtime, higher linear and rotary movement is used during activities.
Activities could start out with minimal movement while remaining closer to the ground and then gradually start to include more movement at higher heights, such as while on a platform swing.
- Blanket rides- child sits or lays down on blanket while adult pulls them around.
- Scooter board rides
- Sensory swing while feet remain on the ground.
- Walking across a low balance beam with support.
- Rocker balance board.
- Bouncing on therapy ball while seated with feet on the ground.
- Wagon rides.
- Jumping on trampoline.
- Eventually, sensory swings at higher heights and with rotary movement can be introduced