CHAIR SPINNING EXPERIMENT
The journal Science published a study in 1977 offering promising evidence of the impact of mild vestibular stimulation on the gross motor skill development of babies. Babies ranging from three to thirteen months were subjects of a research project. The gross motor ability of each baby was evaluated prior to the project. Each baby received sixteen sessions of chair spinning (four times a week for four weeks). The researcher seated an infant on his lap and spun around in a swivel chair ten times, and after each single spin he made an abrupt stop. The objective was for the infants to receive stimulation of the three semicircular canals of the vestibular system.
The researcher varied the position of each baby from the following three positions: sitting with the head tilted slightly forward, side-lying on the left side, and side-lying on the right side. The variations in positions provides stimulation to each of the three canals in the vestibular system. The babies loved this experience, and they expressed it through laughing and babbling! Often, they fussed when the chair stopped for its thirty-second rest between spins. In addition to this group that received the chair-spinning, there were two “control” groups of infants. One group that did not spin at all, and one group that sat in the chair on a researcher’s lap for sixteen sessions, but did not spin.
RESULTS: ADVANCED MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT
The results showed that the group which received the chair spinning treatment improved in their motor skill development significantly more than the infants in the two control groups. The babies who were spun showed advanced development of not only their motor skills, but also their reflexes. It is noted that the gross motor skills of sitting, crawling, standing and walking were particularly improved in the group which received the stimulation.
VESTIBULAR STIMULATION AND STRENGTH FOR BABY
What we learn from this experiment is that it is not only muscular strength that is necessary to develop motor skills, but also vestibular activity. When baby learns each of the Stellar Caterpillar “Top 10″ motor skills, she is receiving vestibular stimulation which facilitates learning her next motor skill. After baby learns “lifting the head,” which brings a certain amount of vestibular stimulation, she learns “rolling.” When baby learns to roll, she often rolls across the floor, which brings an increase in vestibular stimulation. This level of stimulation does not occur with a random roll, but with a series of rolls, one after another. It also stimulates different canals from lifting the head. From the above experiment we know that babies who receive vestibular stimulation may show advanced development of gross motor skills such as crawling, standing, and walking. By “advanced development” we do not mean that they achieve these milestones earlier than average, but they acquire them with advanced skill. Advanced skill means they perform the skill deliberately with repetition, confidence, and optimal mechanics.