Vestibular input allows your child to walk


I went for my haircut today and while talking to my hairstylist I found that she has one child who is around one year of age.  I was joking with her whether her child is running around and giving her daily dose of exercises that she needs.  She acknowledged that most of her time at home is spent running after and around her child.  I don’t think this is a surprise for the parents out there, who knows as soon as the child learns to walk; child wants to explore each and every corner of the earth he has access to.

Interestingly enough, I was catching up on my news and browsed the health section of New York Times one reader asked a question about the reason why most of the children start walking at the age of 11 – 12 months; was it due to the fact that the inner ear (the vestibular system) is not developed till 11 or 12 months of age. Here is the response of Dr. Joseph J. Higgins, professor of pediatric neurology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Komansky Center for Children’s Health: 

  • Vestibular input, the inner-ear mechanism is one of the reason that allows a child to sense where the body is to help balance on two feet, is needed to achieve walking
  • One reason is related to adult brain mass and the time it takes the nervous system to develop after conception.
  • Walking onset in humans as compared with that in animals occurs no later than expected, given the mass of the adult human...

  • Another reason walking is delayed is the need for the human brain to develop myelin after birth. Myelin, the fatty sheath that protects nerve fibers, is needed for the effective transmission of nerve impulses to the legs. As myelin develops, the child’s movements become more accurate.

I knew that vestibular system of inner ear controls each and every muscle of the body and this is the reason known as balancing organ of the human body – but I never relate this mechanism with child’s first walking.  I use to think that the lower limb muscles are not well developed or strong, so child might not start walking soon.  Well it looks like the mechanism is quite complex than just contribution of limb muscle or vestibular input that helps a child to start walking. 

I think Dr. Higgins response indicates that if your child has not started walking at the age of around 11 months, don’t stress to much, may be he needs some more time to develop brain mass or develop myelin.  Just give it more time and your patience will benefit you in long run.

Healthy Parenting!

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