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Can Swinging Help Seizures and Stop Tears?

Unlocking the Secrets of the Vestibular System: Strabismus, Swinging and Seizure Prevention

What if we told you that regularly swinging, bouncing, or rocking your child can ease their irritability, quell their tears, and maybe even decrease seizures, both in number and severity? While it sounds too good to be true, there is a scientific reason behind it, beginning with the vestibular system.

Have you ever wondered how you maintain balance, coordination, and spatial awareness? It’s due to the vestibular system. Hidden behind our eyes, deep within our ears, this very intricate system impacts everything from our ability to walk in a straight line to our sense of well-being.

It’s responsible for detecting motion, equilibrium, and spatial orientation by interpreting our head’s movements. It then sends this information to our brain to keep us balanced. This allows us to navigate the world with ease.

Strabismus and the Vestibular System

Strabismus, known as “crossed eyes,” “lazy eye,” or a “squint,” in some countries, is a condition characterized by the misalignment of the eyes. When a child has strabismus, their eyes fail to work together in a coordinated manner, resulting in one eye deviating or turning inwards, outwards, upwards, or downwards. Strabismus is known to cause depth-perception problems and sometimes double vision. While strabismus primarily affects vision, not necessarily sight, it also impacts the vestibular system.

If your child sees objects in double form or has trouble understanding the physical location of objects in comparison to their location, conflicting information may be created and sent through the vestibular system to the brain, leaving your child unable to maintain balance and coordination.

When the brain receives conflicting visual input, a state of sensory confusion is created. This discrepancy puts a strain on the vestibular system as it tries to compensate for the conflicting information, leading to symptoms like dizziness, vertigo, and poor balance.

Therefore, the vestibular and visual systems have a close relationship and work in tandem to help us understand our surroundings. 

How Does Swinging Help?

As many parents can attest, rocking or swinging a child calms them. But there’s a scientific reason behind it, and it has to do with the vestibular system. These rhythmic movements align the vestibular system, promoting a sense of balance, stability, and relaxation. Rocking and swinging activate the canals in the inner ear, sending signals to the brain that provide a sense of equilibrium.

A child with strabismus greatly benefits from regular rocking and swinging, as their vestibular system needs more alignment than most. These movements help synchronize the vestibular system, alleviating the sensory confusion caused by misaligned eyes. This rhythmic input acts as a reset button, recalibrating the vestibular system and bringing it back into balance. While all children like to be rocked and swung, children with strabismus are more likely to have a disrupted vestibular system and, therefore, may be more irritable than most. Adding regular swinging into your routine will add comfort and relief, and may even keep many tears at bay, providing easier days for all.

Young child in Swurfer Swing

“If you can’t manage a swing in the house, try gently bouncing on a yoga ball with your child in your arms. A yoga ball also comes in handy for soothing your child while away from home. It’s amazing how quickly a yoga ball can calm a crying baby. At one point, we had one in every room. Now that my son is bigger, we have a swing in our living room. It has become part of the furniture,” says Julianne, mother of a child with a neurodevelopmental disease. See this swing and other favorites, here.

Epilepsy and the Vestibular System

Many children with genetic disorders have both strabismus and epilepsy. While the connection of the vestibular system with epilepsy isn’t fully understood, studies have shown that the vestibular system plays a critical role in seizure control. 

Ensuring the vestibular system is in order can balance brain activity and potentially reduce the occurrence, onset, and, therefore, frequency of seizures. One mom we know swears swinging stops an oncoming seizure in its tracks.

Scientifically, doctors have seen abnormal vestibular functioning in individuals with epilepsy. The belief is that disruptions in the vestibular system may contribute to the development and/or severity of seizures.

This is all the more reason to add rocking, swinging, or bouncing to your child’s daily routine! Find equipment options here.


References and Further Reading

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