Ways to Deal With Gravitational Insecurity or Fear of Height in Children

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Ways to Deal With Gravitational Insecurity or Fear of Height in Children

Gravitational Insecurity

What is gravitational insecurity?

Gravitational insecurity(GI)  refers to an excessive fear of ordinary movement, being out of an upright position, or having one’s feet off the ground. Children with this fear are uncomfortable with gravity, and their reactions are out of proportion to any real danger that exists or to any postural deficits the child may have. A child that struggles with gravitational insecurity is fearful and anxious about normal movement. They are uncomfortable in a position that is not upright and anxiety sets in when their feet are off the ground. There is usually an irrational fear of heights that accompanies their movement around the house and within their environment.

Gravitational insecurity in a child will manifest itself in the following ways:

  • Fear of heights
  • Overwhelmed when head position changes, especially when inverted (upside down)
  • Avoidance of stairs
  • Dislikes high playground equipment
  • Fear of falling
  • Anxious when feet leave ground
  • Poor visual discrimination in the environment
  • Seems unbalanced in walking at times

What causes gravitational insecurity?

Gravitational insecurity is a form of over-responsiveness to vestibular sensations detected by the otolith organs. Otolith organs (located in the inner ear) detect linear movement through space and the pull of gravity. Gravitational insecurity is associated with poor otolithic vestibular processing.

How do we know if the child has gravitational insecurity?

Children with gravitational insecurity may display a fear of heights or be overwhelmed by changes in head position. Often they exhibit unwarranted fear, anxiety, or avoidance of stairs, elevators, high playground equipment, or uneven surfaces. These children tend to move slowly and carefully and may refuse to participate in gross motor activities.

How can we help child to overcome gravitational insecurity?

Sensory integration therapy is commonly used to treat gravitational insecurity. By providing your child with graded vestibular information, he can learn to process information more effectively. Sensory experiences are introduced slowly and gradually so your child does not perceive these experiences negatively.

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