Primitive reflexes are automatic movements that infant perform in response to a sensory stimulus. The reflexes are innate and are there to help with safety and survival. With hours and hours of repetition primitive reflexes eventually become inactive and turn into postural reflexes. Postural reflexes bring the child into an upright position and eventually to walking. Primitive reflexes lay the foundation in the brain, creating neural pathways that allow for efficient movement and higher-level learning in the child.
Retained primitive reflexes can occur for a variety of reasons. For example a child born with abnormal or low muscle tone will develop slower and demonstrate delays due to not hitting milestones. They most likely will have partially integrated reflexes causing issues with further brain development. Other reasons include injury, toxins, environmental factors, not enough tummy time, illness, etc. It is not exactly known why some children do not go though the typical growth cycle fully when their body & brain appear “normal”.
A study completed in January 2018, looked at preschool children ages 4-6 and compared their psychomotor development (nervous system development) with their primitive reflex integration.
Over 38% of the children demonstrated altered or delayed development. Psychomotor disturbances, also known as minimal brain disorders, can modify and hinder a child’s spontaneous development process. The first signs can be seen in early childhood, but many of them are seen later, i.e. learning and behaviour difficulties during the pre-school years. Reflex retention and academic or behavior difficulties experienced by children when they reach school age may be linked.
Correlations between week of birth, prevalence of reflexes and motoric skills were also studied. Children born before term show a higher level of non-integrated reflexes compared to children born at term. They also have a lower level of motoric skills.
The research showed over 60% of children demonstrated at least one primitive reflex at level 1–2 and 25% of them at levels 3 and 4. It means that most of the examined healthy pre-school children have non-integrated reflexes.
Our study shows that without training of primitive reflexes integration, it may be impossible to correct motoric functions and help clumsy children to reach the degree of psychomotor level as their compeers. In order to prevent psychomotor delays of elder children, it is necessary to conduct an examination of the degree of reflexes integration in pre-schoolers and, as a result, if necessary, apply reflex therapy.
See the full study here.
Research, such as the study above, are beginning to show the benefits of testing young children, even healthy children, for retained reflexes. Simple, infant-like, movements can be performed on a daily basis to help integrate the reflexes and improve motor performance and learning.
Brain Connex Therapy offers Primitive Reflex Integration training to parents; courses coming soon for therapists & professionals.