As an Occupational Therapist I have spent many hours working with children in different settings. So many of the children I saw struggled with attention & focus problems, hypersensitivities to sensory information (sound, touch, movement, etc), and had troubles with academic learning. It wasn’t until my own child was displaying signs of low tone and delayed development that I took a closer look at the current therapies we use and the gap in treatment I saw. When I heard about retained primitive reflexes I wasn’t sure if it was too alternative since so few people were talking about it. Even the doctors & neurologists that I talked to about reflexes didn’t seem to have a clue that they could affect development.
I began researching primitive reflexes and realized my son displayed almost every primitive reflex still retained at three years old. I saw that he never had his parachute reflex emerge which would explain why he didn’t brace himself with his upper body during falls. I showed our top pediatric neurologist this phenomenon by picking my son up during the appointment and thrusting him towards the floor. His arms didn’t even flinch to move forwards (parachute reflex emerges 8-9 months of age – extending arms to protect you when you fall forwards). This top neurologist shrugged his shoulders and said “he’d catch up to his peers within a year or two.” But you guessed it, he did not, and we never went back to that doctor.
After doing the research and primitive reflexes and beginning to take several courses in the area, I began to realize that this truly was the missing link in therapy for many children. When testing kids for retained Primitive Reflexes, research demonstrates that 65 to 70 percent of students had one or more retained Primitive Reflexes holding them back from reaching their learning potential. I decided to devote my time on research and learning and eventually developing a program for Primitive Reflex Integration.
What are Retained Primitive Reflexes?
Primitive reflexes are automatic movements that infants have to keep them safe and to alert their caregiver of their needs. The reflexes emerge and eventually become integrated through tons of repetition of the movement. Infants react to sensory information in their environment and movement from reflexes occur, simultaneously helping to integrate the senses. Once primitive reflexes are integrated they become postural reflexes needed for upright posture & mobility.
When primitive reflexes are retained (or “unintegrated”) there can be a slew of problems as the child has delays in development in areas such as motor skills, attention, behavior, visual perception, and higher level academic learning. The delays may be obvious for some children with a diagnosis, but many others won’t be identified until they are challenged in school.
What are Some Typical Signs of retained Reflexes?
There are several signs of retained reflexes to look out for. When you identify multiple symptoms along with delayed motor development and/or learning challenges it is highly likely your child has retained primitive reflexes.
Here are just a few of the signs & symptoms:
- hypersensitive to sound, touch, taste, or movement
- motion sickness
- fine motor delays
- gross motor coordination difficulties
- unable to ride a bike, catch a ball, skip, etc
- falls over frequently/loses balance/clumsy
- difficulty sleeping (falling asleep or staying asleep)
- delays in infant milestones; late walker; late talker; did not crawl
- speech troubles
- visual tracking difficulties
- low muscle tone
- excessive or irrational fears; anxiety; fight-or-flight
- hyperactive; unable to sit still
- trouble reading; learning; dyslexia; dysgraphia
- poor eye-hand coordination
- frequent tantrums; argumentative
- emotionally sensitive
- fatigues easily
Connection Between the Sensory System & Primitive Reflexes
The sensory system develops together with primitive reflexes. Because the two are intricately connected, almost all children with sensory issues no matter their diagnosis (or not), have retained primitive reflexes. Reflex integration is affected by the sensory systems (vision, touch, movement, auditory, etc). All of the sensory systems develop during integration of the reflexes. So if a reflex is retained, the sensory system will not fully integrate either. As depicted in our ‘Pyramid of Development & Learning’ you can see the integration of reflexes + sensory system lay the foundation for all other learning, behavior, and motor skills in the child’s brain and nervous system.
Online Primitive Reflex Integration Programs
If you suspect your child may have retained primitive reflexes affecting their learning and development, there is a way to test the reflexes and learn simple exercises to do at-home in your living room that can help tremendously.
Remember, even if your child is seeing an Occupational Therapist or Behavioral Specialist, there isn’t enough time within a therapy session to cover what is needed in order to integrate reflexes. Reflexes need lots of repetition and stimulation up to 5x/week in order to integrate. When therapists have the help and support of parents at home you can begin to see huge strides in your child’s learning development.
Here is a simple Quick Start Guide to Primitive Reflex Integration for parents, teachers, therapists, and caregivers to support your child’s learning and development.
Within the guide you’ll receive a specific program of eight core reflexes using written and video instructions for your education, plus an activity record sheet to stay on track.
If you are looking for a more detailed and supportive approach, the Online Primitive Reflex & Brain Integrations Program is for you.
Within the 90-day program you will learn how to integrate all imperative primitive reflexes through written & video instruction. You will learn how to add sensory stimulation for brain integration, balancing the brain hemispheres growth. And you will be a part of a supportive community in our private FB group, along with weekly LIVE ZOOM calls to learn, ask questions, and create a community.
Brain Connex Therapy is a web-based company, helping children achieve academic and lifestyle success through movement-based therapies. We educate parents, caregivers, teachers & therapists in areas of primitive reflex integration, brain hemispheric integration, lifestyle factors, and movement-based treatments for bilateral integration, timing & rhythm. Created by an Occupational Therapist and mother to a son with special needs.