#127 - Gravitational Insecurity

by Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC & Jessica Hill, COTA/L November 11, 2020

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Gravitational Insecurity

As podcast DJs, we LOVE answering your questions and this episode is just that - answering a listener’s question regarding gravitational insecurity. What is it? Why does it happen? What can you do to help your child if they exhibit gravitational insecurities? Listen in and take notes! 



What is Gravitational Insecurity?

The term 'gravitational insecurity' is used to describe an individual's lack of ability or difficulty in managing their physical balance, body position, and movement. This situation is frequently observed among children who are still learning coordinate motor abilities such as running and walking. Without proper muscle control, children may experience an inability to balance properly or easily transition from one physical activity to the next.

Anxieties can arise when their head is suddenly moved in various directions and they are standing on a surface that isn't steady. Unexpectedly, this often results in loss of balance and even tumbling off surfaces during play. In reality, it is a fear response triggered by movement inside the vestibular system brought about by anxiety.

What Signs Can Help Us Identify an Individual Experiencing Gravitational Insecurity?

One of the most common manifestations of gravitational insecurity is when a child refuses to stand on items like stools, chairs and ladders due to fear of falling off. Other indications may include:

  • Avoiding running or jumping on uneven grounds
  • Resisting activities that involve climbing, riding bicycles, or swimming
  • Disliking rough play with peers
  • Difficulty coordinating their body to do somersaults, looking between their legs, or log rolls
  • Exhibit poor balance, fear of heights, and avoid using the stairs
  • Difficulty with focusing and remaining seated in the classroom

Gravitational insecurity can also have a marked impact on the development of a child's learning and social growth. As a result, they are more likely to experience low self-esteem and feelings of embarrassment when faced with activities that involve physical coordination.

What Causes Gravitational Security?

To start with, we are unsure of the cause in many cases. It is comparably similar to sensory processing disorder where there may be underlying causes which remain undisclosed; sometimes a traumatic birth can be evident, yet it's not always so straightforward. We know that vestibular processing issues exist among those with this condition, however for some children the true origin remains unknown.

It is likely that gravitational insecurity, just like sensory processing issues, may be inherited. We often observe a link between the intensity (or lack thereof) of parental struggles and their children's associated difficulties in this area. On the other hand, it might even be environmental. If parents are affected by insecurity or fearfulness, they may unintentionally pass those feelings to their child through words and body language instead of encouraging them to reach outwards; engaging in activities such as swinging, climbing and jumping happily. It's not necessarily a genetic thing but something that can inadvertently come with the environment within which a child grows.

Visual processing may also play a role, so it is important to consider visual delays as well as the clarity of our vision and near and far depth perception. If a child struggles with depth perception, glasses can often be the answer. On the other hand, if they experience difficulty with ocular motor skills or visual perceptual deficits then their vestibular system is likely to struggle too.

Lastly, gravitational insecurity may develop in the womb when a mother is placed on bed rest. As they don't have an equal opportunity to move around while pregnant, their babies are not exposed to similar stimuli and thus could arrive with vestibular complications.

Is Gravitational Insecurity Associated With Primitive Reflexes?

If a child's primitive reflexes impede the natural maturation of their movement patterns, they may show signs of gravity insecurity. Primitive reflexes are rudimentary neurological responses that control our body's fight-or-flight reaction and can disturb typical developmental progress without appropriate treatment.


There are two primitive reflexes that may be attached to gravity insecurity, which are: the Moro Reflex and the TLR Reflex. The Moro reflex is triggered when an infant feels startled by a sound or movement. During this reflex, they pull their arms and legs into their body while arching their head back and crying out.


The TLR reflex activates when pressure is applied to the feet or hands of a baby, prompting them to extend one arm while flexing the other and elevating their head. If these reflexes are not inhibited before the child reaches two years of age, they may be left with a feeling of gravitational insecurity that could impact their balance and coordination.

How Can We Develop A Sense Of Gravitational Insecurity?

To foster a child’s gravitational security, there are multiple techniques that can be employed. Swinging, rocking and spinning will help build the vestibular system while deep pressure massage and muscle compression can soothe their fight-or-flight response to strengthen their awareness of body positioning in space.


If you're in search of a program that is highly tailored, the Astronaut Training Program may be perfect for you. This revolutionary system was designed to promote the alignment between visual, auditory and vestibular systems. For those who are therapists or parents seeking full benefits from this distinct regimen, its exercises must be completed.


Much like participating in the Astronaut Training Program, you can also employ the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol for children who are overly sensitive to sensory input, such as vestibular input. This brushing protocol has been proven an effective calming strategy due to its delivery of deep pressure across their body. But it is essential that one takes proper training before using this technique; otherwise they may cause more harm than good unintentionally.


Finally, obstacle courses are not just an enjoyable way to get your kids active but also support the development of their vestibular senses. There's no need to purchase additional items; you can use existing materials in your home such as hula hoops or coin toss games!

Who Should I Turn To For Help With Gravity Insecurity?

Through thoughtful guidance and stimulating activities, we can help children strengthen their gravitational security. This is an essential element of motor development that must be nurtured in a supportive atmosphere designed to boost confidence and equip youngsters with the skills necessary for prosperous mobility as they grow.

For more help on how to approach this growing concern, parents and teachers should consider consulting with a professional therapist experienced in vestibular regulation. They can provide insight into what measures can be taken to assist with the growth of children's inner gravitational security. With their direction and guidance, we are reassured that kids will develop an increased sense of safety and comfort as they engage in physical activities.




While we make every effort to share correct information, we are still learning. We will double check all of our facts but realize that medicine is a constantly changing science and art. One doctor / therapist may have a different way of doing things from another. We are simply presenting our views and opinions on how to address common sensory challenges, health related difficulties and what we have found to be beneficial that will be as evidenced based as possible. By listening to this podcast, you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or your children. Consult your child’s pediatrician/ therapist for any medical issues that he or she may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guests or contributors to the podcast. Under no circumstances shall Rachel Harrington, Harkla, Jessica Hill, or any guests or contributors to the podcast, as well as any employees, associates, or affiliates of Harkla, be responsible for damages arising from use of the podcast.

Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

This podcast should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever, including but not limited to establishing “standard of care” in a legal sense or as a basis for expert witness testimony. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast.

Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC & Jessica Hill, COTA/L
Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC & Jessica Hill, COTA/L

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