Astronaut Training: A Sound Activated Vestibular-Visual Protocol
(Mary J. Kawar, MS, OTR, and Sheila M. Frick, OTR)
The Sunflower Clinic offers the “Astronaut Training ” as a therapeutic intervention. This is a sensory integration programme, designed to stimulate and integrate the vestibular, visual, and auditory systems.
Many children with motor or movement disorders may have reduced vestibular functioning e.g. poor motor coordination skills, poor balance, fearful of movement, awkward, clumsy, frequent falls and bumping into things.
The vestibular system is a uniquely designed structure located in the middle ear that detects movement, and gives us an understanding of where our head and body are in space in relation to the pull of gravity. It allows us to integrate all the senses and acts like an internal and highly effective compass for the body. This system plays a vital role in developing and maintaining balance, understanding our position in space, and setting up and supporting good visual skills. Reduced vestibular processing can affect sensory-motor integration, muscle tone and posture, and basic attention and alertness.
The Astronaut training activates the vestibular-auditory-visual triad. It provides precise input to all five vestibular receptors, along with auditory and visual input to create a comprehensive treatment protocol that integrates these three sensory systems.
The programme involves a series of engaging activities in which children can be meaningfully occupied while maintaining their orientation in space. These activities can be carried out in a graded manner to accommodate all abilities. During the astronaut training program, participants are positioned precisely on astronaut boards which rotate in time with music. Participants then complete a series of vision exercises.
The protocol should be delivered by a trained occupational therapist.