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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Swings and other Vestibular Sensory Solutions

I'm going to admit it from the outset. I am not an expert on OT issues and Sensory issues and such. I can only write about our personal experience with Dovi and his issues. So forgive me if I end up talking gibberish or even say something incorrect. If you're an OT or other professional with knowledge in this area - or even if you're a SN mom with experience in this area - please don't hesitate to speak up, correct me, and/or give your input. Thanks.

Now back to Dovi's constant need for motion.

Dovi likes to run back and forth large, empty spaces. I'm not exactly sure what drives the little demon inside of him to spin, spin, spin and run, run, run. I don't know if it's the inner ear imbalance, if he's running away from himself, if he wants to "find" himself in space, or if it's just something he likes to do for fun or boredom.

Carly Fleischmann (whose book you can buy here - admittedly, I havent read it yet, although it's on my planned reading list) - mentioned that she would rock back and forth to get rid of the 'demons' inside of her. For what it's worth, check out this clip from youtube by a person with autism spectrum disorder, on what it's like to have a sensory overload:

So when Dovi is running, he may either be running away from too loud sounds and too much sight, or because his inner ear is driving him crazy and he's trying to get rid of it. I don't know what. But when he was 2 1/2, he needed movement to calm him. I remembered from the summer in the Catskills, how calm he got in the swing and how well it worked for him. At the Sensory gym, he absolutely loved sitting or laying down in the swings; it was so soothing. Once, he even fell asleep in one of the hammock swings with a weighted blanket on top of him. Ha.

So I went searching for a hammock-style swing for him, along with a mountable bar. It was a very tough search. I didnt know if I should put a block of wood on my dining room doorway, or hang it on my bedroom doorframe. After searching long and hard I finally settled on the Net Swing Chair from Therapro. Since it came with its own bar, it would be a cinch to put onto the doorframe. Right? Right?


I called a random handyman from the local yellow pages. At first the iron bar was too wide for my doorway. So I took it to an auto repair shop to have it trimmed down. The wonderful people did it free of charge. Finally, the handyman mounted the bar on the doorframe. Then I noticed the swing was torn somehow. So I sent it back for replacement. I got a new one 2 weeks later. And then I noticed it had never been torn in the first place. Oh well...

The swing was never a resounding success. The door frame was too narrow and Dovi kept banging his head on the sides. He didnt like the flat position that much. We dont really use the swing anymore. it's laying around in the storage closet, and if anyone really wants it, I can sell it to you for a low price.

It was okay while it lasted.

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Chaim liked stealing swinging time, too.

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There are better swings that I probably could have bought instead of this ungainly, twisty hammock. I had probably been looking for something more like this one or this one.

But at least now I had the doorframe rod mounted, and we could hang any swing we wanted! So I bought a couple of swings on amazon - since the local toy stores dont stock swings all year round - and we now had our own little playground inside our own house. The volunteers had where to play with him when they came over, the speech therapist finally got her wish to do therapy in the swing - and Dovi still bumped his head a lot since he had a tendency to lean over and bite the rope handle of the swing. He learned to stop doing that eventually.

These are the three swings that served us well the past two years:


We used the red bucket swing first; it was similar to the ones in the playground and he liked it. We bought the blue one after the summer, because in the summer of 2011 someone had donated this kind of swing to the playground and Dovi loved it. I bought the 'older kid' yellow seat swing once I realized that Dovi liked to swing on it stomach down. It became his soothing area of choice; during his upsherin (3rd haircut) when he was super distressed by everything that was going on, he would head over to the yellow swing to calm himself down.

Right now, Dovi does not use the swings so often anymore. His need for constant motion has been replaced by a constant need for touch and pressure. When he does seem disoriented or in a motion-sensory mode, I often simply lift him upside down and encourage him to do a tumblesauce or headstand and it calms him down.

There are other kinds of equipment and solutions for the 'constantly in motion' child or the child who needs to be calmed down by motion. There is the Sit and Spin, Bilibo, and other motion equpiment. Sites like Fun n Function, Especialneeds, and School Specialty have entire sections dedicated to equipment for different sensory needs. If you can afford any of it, many of these things are worth investing in.

if there are any other vestibular aids you have tried which helped your child, feel free to let us know!


  1. my son loves to be twirled around upside down but gets a frightened look if I put him in the playground swing. as a baby he lived in the Fisher Price cradle swing, we used to joke about putting it in our bedroom instead of his bed.

  2. If you encourage him to face the couch and put his head at the back of the couch and throw his feet up in the air against the wall, he can go upside down by himself without your help- he might need to get a TAD taller first--- it was about that age when my kiddos started doing it I think---- you'll have footprints on your wall, but you'll also have great photos of an upside down kiddo. Hysterically funny when my twins do it together. My kids do it daily now--- they no longer ask me to hold them upside down--- they just clear all toys off the couch and go crazy. :)

  3. Just a technical comment about this blog (which I love btw), would it be possible to have the links open up in a new window so that I don't 'lose' your blog every time I click on a link?

    1. that's something u need to do - right click on the link and hit 'open in a new tab/window' - it's not something htat comes built in to the coding, unfortunately.


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