And their impact on learning and behavior.
Primitive reflexes are autonomic, involuntary movements/motor responses to specific stimulus arising from the brain stem and have no cortical involvement. They are essential for a baby’s survival in the first few months of life by ensuring immediate responses to the new environments and to his changing world. They provide elementary training and each reflex has a vital role in setting the building blocks for later functioning for many voluntary skills. They emerge in utero but should be inhibited by 6-12 months as higher centers of brain take over and proper neurological organization of the brain begin to develop.
What happens if primitive reflexes are retained?If primitive reflexes remain active beyond 6- 12 months of life, there will be a structural weakness or immaturity within the central nervous system (CNS), which may interfere with the development of postural reflexes, learning, social and immature patterns of behavior.
Children with learning difficulties, ADHD, Autism, and various other neurodevelopmental disorders display symptoms of retained primitive reflexes. The symptoms depend on the specific type of retained primitive reflex and can affect one or many areas of functioning such as sensory perception, cognition, expression, and coordinated muscle movements.
- A retained Moro Reflex can lead to: Inability to control emotions. The child might be aggressive, anxious. Vestibular related problems such as motion sickness, poor balance and coordination. Hypersensitivity to touch, light and texture.
- A retained Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex can lead to: Inattention, poor writing skills and difficulty in walking.
- A retained Spinal Galant Reflex can lead to: Hyperactivity, inattention and bedwetting.
- A retained Tonic Labyrinthe Reflex can lead to: Disturbed balance, problems with hearing, orientation and spatial difficulties.
- A retained Plantar Reflex can lead to: Curled toes which results in difficulties with balance and walking, coordination.
- Retained Sucking and Rooting Reflexes can lead to: Problems with speech, eating and chewing.
What may lead to retained primitive reflexes?
There are many different reasons why primitive reflexes fail to integrate fully. Children born with traumatic birthing processes, toxicity, head injury, excessive falls and chronic ear infection etc. are at risk at having retained primitive reflexes. The increase of the Caesarian section birth might be a contributing factor as some of the reflexes are stimulated by the process of passing through the birth canal during natural childbirth.
Other factors may include premature birth and lack of exploration during creeping or crawling stage. Early walkers, children who spend little time on crawling, can miss out on some valuable stimulation for coordination and visuo-spatial development.
How kinesiology can help
Kinesiology has specific tests and protocols that can identify and help with the retained primitive reflexes. The results of the treatment may include improved learning, motor skills, social behavior, and physical and emotional health.
For those who would like to learn more about primitive reflexes, speak with one of our kinesiologists or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Helena Yoon, Kinesiologist