My child is sensitive to movement – help?

Posted: 20 May, 2016

By: Annemarie Lombard

Section: Education, Parenting


Stop the world – I want to get off! Have you ever spent so much time swimming in the ocean or being on a boat that your body continues to perceive this sensation after you have returned to solid ground?

Imagine that sensation did not stop and you continued to have difficulty perceiving your movement through the environment. Everyday life may seem like a continuous merry go round, spiralling out of control the more you move.

This is a challenge faced by many children who are sensitive to movement or who have difficulty perceiving the movement of their body through the environment and in relation to gravity.

Sensations received through our movement sense (vestibular system) should automatically and unconsciously provide us with a sense of security in terms of our body movements and position in space.

Children who do not accurately perceive this sensation may feel like balloons floating in mid-air. One can only imagine the sense of insecurity and unpredictability that is associated with this. A balloon is unable to predict which way it will be blown by the wind, how far it may go, or if and how it will get back to earth.

A child who is sensitive to movement, frequently:

  • Feels anxious when moved or when their feet leave the ground
  • Becomes distressed during movement
  • Fears heights or avoids jumping down from higher surfaces
  • Fears climbing onto moving surfaces such as escalators
  • Prefers to be in control of their movement and environment which may be perceived as difficult or bossy behaviour.
  • As a result, their interaction and engagement within the environment is limited and this may further hinder the development of their movement sense.

Tips for parents if you suspect that your child may be sensitive to movement sensations:

  • It is important to be empathetic towards your child’s sense of insecurity with regard to movement.
  • Assist your child to slowly engage in movement activities and not push them more than they are able to tolerate
  • Remember that having their feet on the ground is a critical part of them feeling safe and more secure.
  • Try to encourage your child to actively participate in movement activities where they can guide and control the speed and direction in which they move.
  • Try to start with gentle forwards and backwards movement as this is more calming than rotational movement. Rotational movement can be incorporated as their tolerance for movement improves. Carefully observe your child for signs of dizziness and stop movement as necessary.
  • Observe your child closely for signs of discomfort and provide calming sensory input in the form of deep pressure such as a big bear hug to help them feel more secure and organised.



Who has benefited

Sensory Quiz™
Sensory Matrix™
Senses on Call™
Social media
Sensory Intelligence®