Sensory Integration (Part 6): Postural Control


Postural stability

Postural control assists us to maintain postures against gravity.

Stability is necessary when we are sitting, standing and moving.  It gives us the safety and security to move, if a child does not have this security the child may become emotionally insecure. 

Postural stability is influences by 4 systems:  visual, vestibular, proprioception and touch. 

The proprioceptive (the ability do determine how hard/soft your movements are and to know what your body is doing when vision is occluded) and vestibular systems (the ability to tolerate movement especially when the head is not in the upright position or to know where you are in space) are intrinsically linked and cannot be separated when talking about movement and maintaining posture.  These two systems are automatic and mostly subconscious. 

If there is a limitation in one or more of the above-mentioned systems, postural stability will be negatively influenced.

Signs / symptoms:

  • Poor core strength
  • Decreased endurance – fatigues easily (will lean against walls, furniture, slumps over, propping their head with their hands)
  • Poor balance
  • Movement looks clumsy
  • Poor body awareness (what is my body doing)
  • Moves cautiously and slow
  • Unwillingness to move
  • Prefers sedentary (sitting) activities
  • Moving on uneven surfaces is difficult
  • Feels unstable, insecure and unsafe
  • Needs to concentrate to sustain a stable position
  • Widens the base of support/platform on which the body rests – will support themselves when sitting with their arms, m-sits, stands with legs shoulder width apart.
  • Poor protective extension – won’t catch themselves when falling, bumped by others.
  • Has poor self-esteem/self-confidence
  • Tends to play alone
  • Poor bilateral coordination (difficulty using both side of the body simultaneously e.g. catching a ball, riding a bike, hitting a ball
Preschool girl falling down

Postural ocular control

This is the ability to control posture and the quality of movements while the body is moving or at rest.  Low muscle tone, joint stability and poor functional use of vision are usually present when there is a dysfunction.

Signs / symptoms:

  • Low or high muscle tone
  • Poor co-contraction of muscle – child struggles to resist or move against gravity
  • Poor oculo-motor control or functional use of vision – child want to move his head when moving his eyes and struggles to focus on objects when he is moving.

If you suspect your child has poor postural control, please take him/her to be evaluated by an occupational therapist.

The book The out of sync child has fun – by Kranowits can also assist you to learn more about sensory dysfunction and gives activities to improve this.

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