This article provides helpful information containing the learning triangle and how it promotes learning.
So much of your child’s development involves their vestibular system and how the position of their body is in relation to gravity around us. Let’s pretend for a moment that you are training to be an astronaut. Without the proper training to help your body adapt to free falling and being weightless, your body won’t be able to function and you may become disoriented. The same happens to your baby when they are in the womb. They don’t depend yet on their vestibular system for gravitational security until they begin crawling, walking, reaching and grabbing.
Without these important developmental milestones, your child’s vestibular system becomes weak and can cause a disconnection in the brain for future learning. Studies have shown children who develop their motor skills and activate their vestibular systems with movement-based activities, were further advanced in cognitive development over other peers.
If your child’s vestibular system becomes underdeveloped, you may start to notice attention issues, learning challenges, emotional grounding problems and language disorders.
What’s more important, is the vestibular system (motor movement) can’t function on it’s own. It must team up with your child’s visual and auditory systems, creating a triangle for learning, to help them understand the relationship between sights, sounds, objects and people. Because the vestibular system is our internal GPS system, it ties all our senses together (sight, smell, touch, hearing). Each component of our triangle contributes to all aspects of our child’s learning development in the classroom.
Motor Skills – Vestibular Development
Your child’s vestibular system is a motor-movement system that thrives on engaging the body in activities that build neural connections in the brain for learning (crashing, climbing, swinging, jumping). Developing your child’s motor skills makes up the base of our triangle because it is the foundation for growth and learning. If the body isn’t properly prepared or developed with the necessary motor skills it needs to get the right and left sides of the brain working together, your child can’t develop the other sides of the learning triangle.
When your child’s vestibular system isn’t functioning properly, you may notice delays in their motor skills, balance and coordination issues, bumping into furniture, difficulty walking or trouble with sitting still in their seat.
Your vestibular system does the following:
- Monitors orientation of the head in a gravity-stabilized environment
- Registers movement and anchors us in place
- Incorporates movement information with all our senses
Most people don’t know or understand the connection between their child’s vestibular system (motor skills) and their visual system used for reading, writing, tracking and fine motor development. The vestibular system activates your child’s postural muscles, which stabilizes your child’s eyes on a specific target when the head and body is in motion. When your child’s postural control isn’t functioning correctly, your child may have difficulty with simple tasks like copying notes from the chalkboard, tying their shoelaces, and catching and kicking a ball. In addition, your child will struggle tracking words on a page while reading and they may write their letters backward. Because their balance and coordination is off, they may also see letters that jump, jiggle or they may experience blurry vision.
The correlation between the vestibular and vision systems also affects your child’s ability to move through their environment without getting lost, disoriented or hurt. Their ability to problem solve may also suffer because their attention and focus is disrupted by their need to move.
Your visual system does the following:
- Acts as an warning system that alerts us to movement with our visual field
- Integrates all our sensory and motor processing information
- Provides visual perception skills for planning, organizing and modifying behavior
The other piece to our learning triangle is auditory processing. Your child’s auditory and vestibular systems work together as one system to process vibrations in their environment. Those same postural muscles that the vestibular system supports enables your child to process sounds more efficiently used for speech, language, communication and expression. It also contributes to your child’s timing, rhythm and sequencing for better balance, coordination, eye muscle control and visual perception. When your child hears sound it activates all parts of the triangle as they turn their head and use their eyes to track where the sound or voice came from.
Your auditory system does the following:
- Registers sounds that create awareness of spatial information around us
- Alerts us to sounds that draw attention and guides our vision
- Incorporates rhythmic sounds to organize and promote movement
Our motor movements and vestibular system support our behavioral and emotional aspects of learning as well, which is why some children with poor motor skills also struggle with emotional control.
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