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From the womb on, reflex movements literally “grow” the brain. Repetitive motor patterns are essential for the development of balance, mobility, vision, hearing, speaking, learning and communication.
- Primitive reflex movements are the first foundations of the nervous system. Like a block tower, all further development depends on the readiness of the foundation.
- Primitive reflexes originate in the brain stem, or survival brain. When reflexes remain active, the survival brain is constantly stimulated. In this survival mode, there is less ability to access the prefrontal lobes, where we think, create, communicate and make beneficial decisions. In other words, we are more likely to react instead of controlling our impulses.
- Unintegrated primitive reflexes trigger the “fight or flight” response, creating chronic stress. Even when there is no logical reason for stress, we can feel stressed because our physiology is constantly reacting as if threatened. Stress becomes a habit, often below the level of our awareness.
- When primitive reflexes are active, body parts cannot easily move independently. During reflex activity, movement of the head can cause an automatic movement in the limbs, hands, or feet. Extra limb movements happen below the surface level and cause confusion in the neuro-sensory-motor system. This confusion creates difficulties with emotions, coordination, reading, writing, speaking, and thinking. A child who fidgets in his chair and cannot focus may be suffering from active reflexes. Once reflexes are integrated, head and limb muscle groups can move independently, and the ability to sit attentively without fidgeting comes easily.
- Active primitive reflexes may cause aches and muscle tension, weak muscles, fatigue and the need for great amounts of effort to complete tasks. Our natural muscle strength does not develop fully when reflexes are underdeveloped and unintegrated. We unconsciously learn to compensate for and suppress active reflexes, which can cause considerable tension and drain energy. Unintegrated reflexes can interfere with motivation and learning, because skills that should become automatic, like reading and writing, can be done only with continuous conscious effort.
Neurodevelopmental Movement for Integration and Play
At any age, we can integrate the reflexes and rebuild the foundation of our nervous system through neurodevelopment movement. We can offer many age-appropriate activities specifically designed for promoting brain maturity, releasing stress and integrating reflexes. We add play, because play is fun, healing and transformative.
Neurodevelopmental movements creates quantum shifts and positive changes. Life and learning become much easier once the reflexes are integrated. Neurodevelopmental movement is beneficial for all ages and skill levels. It is effective for reflex integration, sensory integration, whole-brain learning, optimizing skills, reducing stress, eliminating blocks, and developing emotional and social maturity.
**excerpts taken from Brain and Sensory Foundations, Sonia Story and Steven Kane, OTR/L www.moveplaythrive.com