Is Poor Balance Affecting Your Child’s Learning Ability?


Claire used to struggle with helping her son, Kolby. She felt so hopeless and stuck and was always so worried about how much further Kolby would fall behind in school.

It felt like every year Kolby was struggling more. Sure he would make gains in some ways, but Kolby couldn’t sit still to save his life and he was not reading or able to learn the material the way the other kids did.

Claire had been fierce at IEP meetings and the teachers at Kolby’s school were actually great at following the IEP but it was making little difference. Claire couldn’t figure out why he struggled with everything from focus, to handwriting, to reading to learning.

School Dread and Morning Battles

Kolby constantly gave mom a hard time in the morning about going to school – he hated it. He said the teachers didn’t like him and now that he was eleven, and was falling further and further behind, he felt like the ‘class idiot’.

When Claire reached out to me she was desperate to find something that would “calm him down” and she wanted tutoring. When we did the screening, what was apparent was that Kolby had a seriously underdeveloped vestibular system.

Poor Balance, the Vestibular System & Learning Difficulties

Mom agreed that he always had poor balance, had never learned to ride a bicycle but that had nothing to do with his school problems.

Several years ago I would have said the same thing. It’s still shocking to me that I was a teacher for fifteen years and new so little about what primes the brain for good learning, reading and attention.

We cannot talk about fluent reading and optimal learning and behaviour without addressing the very first system to develop in utero.

The Foundation of Brain Development

This system has a major influence on overall brain function and helps to process and organize the sensory information coming through the various senses.

The vestibular system is actually the foundation of learning. It is your built-in compass that links all the other senses together. It coordinates and manages incoming information that is received from the other senses like a doorman who determines what or who is waiting, coming in or going.

The Operating System

If you want to understand how critical the role of the vestibular system is think of the telephone game. If the vestibular system is weak then the correct message will not be delivered to the right areas of the brain.

It receives all the information like a doorman that directs. Now imagine that doorman is lazy or sleeping or just not cut out for the job.

This is why optimal development of the vestibular system plays such an imperative role in reading, learning and behaviour.

How the Vestibular System Develops

Your baby doesn’t require a strong vestibular system until they start trying to move on their own with crawling, walking and standing.

These milestones develop strong vestibular function. In fact, studies have linked strong motor and vestibular system with advanced cognition.

We often think of the vestibular system as some invisible apparatus in the middle ear. This is a part of it but the vestibular system is a motor system. It detects gravity and movement.

Your Child’s Internal Compass

The vestibular system is like the starter on a car – it activates the whole nervous system to operate correctly via the messages it sends to the higher brain levels.

When there is breakdown in this process, then the result is poor sensory integration. This can look like a child who has poor coordination, can’t sit still, has poor handwriting, speech impairments, poor eye tracking, reading difficulties, sensory processing issues and so much more.

What Develops the Vestibular System?

Since the vestibular system is a motor movement system it develops and continues to be maintained through diverse physical stimulation such as swinging, rolling, climbing, jumping and spinning. This stimulation builds connections in the brain for higher learning.

I have written before about the importance of optimal communication between the left and right brain hemispheres for good learning and behaviour. This starts with a well-developed vestibular and sensory-motor system all of which occurs through physical stimulation.

Left & Right Brain Hemisphere Communication

It is this development and movement that will improve the thickness of the corpus callosum that runs between the two brain hemispheres and facilitates communication.

What this means is that good communication between the left and right brain hemisphere begins with a strong vestibular system.

The Vestibular System is the CEO

The vestibular system, which is part of the motor system operates in conjunction with the visual and auditory system. These three systems form the ‘learning triangle’ with the vestibular system at the base.

The vestibular system is like the CEO of a company that sends signals to the brain (the company) which then sends messages to the various ‘departments’. Those ‘departments’ are:

  • The visual system
  • Auditory system
  • Proprioceptive system
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Motor movements – muscles and joints

The vestibular system receives the information from the sensory system and then sends that information to the correct spot. When it is weak the other senses are compromised and the information can be sent to the wrong spot and that is where the breakdown with memory, learning and behaviour so often starts.

Unravelling the various layers of what’s blocking your child from unlocking their full potential takes some time. This is why I work with parents to unravel these root causes, layer by layer in my six month coaching program.

If you want to learn more about my coaching programs that helps children move past limitations and  rise above learning and behaviour difficulties–contact me for a free Clarity Call.

In Health & Wholeness,