Background/Purpose: Children with developmental delays are commonly treated by physical therapists in order to improve their motor skills. Because the vestibular system is involved in balance and coordination of movement and posture, it may be possible to impact motor development and function through stimulation of the vestibular system. Many practitioners use spinning, swinging, and other forms of vestibular stimulation to achieve motor goals. The aim of this paper was to determine if vestibular stimulation can directly improve motor function in children with developmental disabilities or delays. Methods/Case: An extensive and comprehensive evidence based literature search was conducted using four different databases: PubMed®, EBSCOhost for UNM Databases, Cochrane, and Web of Knowledge. Studies related to the effects of vestibular stimulation on motor development of children with developmental delays or disabilities were searched for and reviewed for topic relevance, power, validity, study design, and accessibility. The article analysis was applied to the treatment of subject EC, a 26-month-old child with a diagnosis of Developmental Delay. EC presented to physical therapy as a generally healthy boy with difficulties in gross motor skills, sensory processing (including vestibular processing), and attention. Outcomes/Discussion: The evidence reviewed varied in strength and reported both significant and nonsignificant results. Although there is a definite link between vestibular and motor function, vestibular stimulation cannot be said to directly impact motor function in children with developmental delays based on the evidence reviewed. More research needs to be performed on this topic with more specific patient populations, more statistical analysis, and less threats to internal and external validity. However, vestibular stimulation is cheap, easy, and does not take a lot of time. It has large potential benefits, no risks, and many children enjoy it. Therefore, it is believed to be worthwhile to include vestibular stimulation in play or as a complimentary treatment for EC, once he tolerates it.


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Document Type



vestibular stimulation, developmental disability, motor dysfunction, sensory procession, sensorimotor therapy, children/kids/pediatric/infants

Available for download on Monday, March 14, 2118