Ronan has liked to rock forwards and backwards from the moment he could sit well around five months old. Our QTVI – qualified teacher of the visually impaired – quickly told us that this is normal in blind babies. She explained that this satisfies the need for vestibular stimulation. This is the soothing stimulation that young babies get from being carried and sighted toddlers get from moving through space (e.g. walking).
The Vestibular System, located in the inner ear, contributes to balance and a sense of spatial orientation, providing important information related to movement and head position. The vestibular sense is important for development of balance, coordination, eye control, attention, being secure with movement and some aspects of language development.
We learned from our Occupational Therapist that there are three types of vestibular stimulation: forward/backward, up/down, and circular motions. We were advised to “feed” Ronan’s need for these types of movements, but not allow him to get stuck with one. He particularly likes standing up and rocking forward and backward – row, row, row your boat style. We interrupt this movement with other movements, such as shivering or bending over, for example, at the end of each verse of this nursery rhyme.
Playing with Ronan and responding to his desires, we have developed lots of “games” for stimulating this motion. Here are a few:
- Horsey, horsey: I sit Ronan on my knee and bounce him up and down counting to 10. Each bounce getting bigger.
- Where’s daddy?: I put Ronan on my shoulders and shout, “Where’s daddy?” We then bounce along in the direction of daddy’s voice.
- Monkey: I put Ronan laying across my arm, like a monkey hanging on a tree trunk and swing him back and forth. I make sure to keep my knees bent to keep my back in tact.
- 1, 2, 3 stand: I let Ronan hold my thumbs, which he is very adept at finding, and we rock three times before I say stand and let go.
- Who’s going backwards?: I hold Ronan on my hip and say – “who’s going backwards?” He then tips over backwards and I swing him around in a circle.
While many of these things would make me ill, Ronan loves them.
The best vestibular stimulation we’ve found is the rocking horse. Ronan rocks gregariously for 45 minutes or so each night before bed. It seems to be a major contributor to good sleep now. It was a relief when he started to rock the horse on his own around 10 months.
Not least, we’ve always carried Ronan in a sling (baby carrier). This provides excellent vestibular stimulation and is a very convenient mode of transport.