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Why Static and Dynamic Balance are needed for Learning
This article provides helpful information regarding a child’s static and dynamic balance. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.
You may be surprised to learn that there are two types of balance within our vestibular system. Both play an important role in helping kids maintain good balance for posture, sports and learning.
Static and Dynamic balance are two essential components that make up a child’s overall balance system, but they play very different parts. When testing a child for poor balance or any missed balance milestones, therapists and professionals should test for gaps in both static and dynamic balance. The two must work together in order to support a child’s learning development.
Static Balance vs. Dynamic Balance
Strong balance is one of the most significant elements in a child’s learning growth. Believe it or not, balance can impact a child’s ability to attend in the classroom, write and copy notes, sit at their desk and it determines how a child’s moves within their environment. As a child develops their balance milestones, both static and dynamic balance becomes stronger as the child grows older. Research indicates static and dynamic balance are both needed for better and higher learning in the classroom to help the child achieve their fullest academic potential.
Static balance is the ability to keep the body and head in a fixed position. If a child is standing straight with no movement, static balance helps the child achieve control to hold this position without falling.
If a child can watch the teacher during a lecture, maintain upright posture in their chair and read the notes on the chalkboard, they have strong static balance.
Static balance requires freedom from moving other body parts to support posture. This is very difficult for children with attention issues. They tend to be restless at activities that require them to stay still. To maintain control of their body, they need to constantly be “in motion.” This is why so many kids fidget when sitting at their desk or when they are required to write on the page.
Deep inside the inner ear are two tiny structures that monitor the static balance of the body. The two structures are called the utricle and saccule. Inside these structures are tiny crystals (otoliths) and hair cells that are attached to sensory nerves. Every time your child moves their head, the crystals move and the hair cells bend. This sends sensory nerve messages along the vestibular nerve directly to the brain. Impulses go through nerve tracts to the structure in the brain called the cerebellum, where balance is housed.
The cerebellum monitors these impulses and makes adjustments in the child’s muscle activities, eye movements and head control. It can either cause the muscles to increase or decrease activity, depending on the messages coming in the brain. When your child receives those messages, their muscles instantly react so they don’t lose their balance (most of the time).
The second type of balance is called dynamic balance. Dynamic balance helps the body stay balanced when the body and head position respond to sudden movements. It also helps the body maintain control when it is in motion.
Kids who play sports or kids who are learning to ride a bicycle need good dynamic balance. It also prevents a child from getting dizzy or experiencing vertigo as they write words across the page as the head moves from left to right. Or, when a child needs to copy notes from the chalkboard to the page in front of them. This one simple action involves acceleration, deceleration and rotation.
The structures that maintain dynamic balance lie in the inner ear and consist of three bony semicircular canals that sit at approximately right angles to each other. The canals comprise of three different planes (anterior, lateral and posterior) that contain fluid. When the head moves, the fluid flows over the hair cells and bends them. Just like static balance, after this action occurs, the impulses are once again sent along the same vestibular pathway to the brain. These canals maintain balance by detecting imbalance within the structures.
Balance Gaps Impact Learning
While it is important for static and dynamic balance to work together, it is possible for there to be disconnections between the two. When this happens, you may see gaps in different areas of learning.
For example, a child who has well-developed dynamic balance may play sports well, but has trouble with concentration in the classroom because they have poor static balance. Or, a child who has good static balance may sit in their desk quietly, but may be clumsy or uncoordinated because they lack dynamic balance.
Children who struggle with both dynamic and static balance will have trouble in many learning areas because their balance system cannot help the body stay still or move in a coordinated way. A child who kicks a ball, for example, must have good static balance to stand on one leg, but must also have good dynamic balance to use the opposite leg for kicking the ball.
There are many signs and symptoms of immature balance in a child. If a child shows delays in attention and concentration, evaluating them for poor static and dynamic balance may help you understand the areas that need to be strengthened for better learning.
Children who have retained Primitive Reflexes may also struggle with balance and show static and dynamic balance delays as they grow older. At least three retained Primitive Reflexes could be the cause for poor balance and concentration in school-aged children. Learn more about all three here.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs