6 Things Parents Should Know About Primitive Reflexes and The Development of Movement

1.  Primitive reflexes are a typical part of development.

These are developmental, hard wired patterns of movement designed to help us survive (survival reflexes) and cope with gravity (postural reflexes) when we are babies.


2.  Primitive reflexes have great influence.

Reflexes can influence emotional state, eye movements, arm and hand movement and leg movements. They reflect the close connections between the emotional, sensory and motor systems.


3.  When we see primitive reflex activity, we know balance control is not automatic.

Primitive reflexes are present longer than usual in response to difficulties developing mature balance control. Mature balance control is characterized by central stability and the ability of the muscles to prepare for movement and react to movement in many ways.


4.  Primitive postural reflexes should not be addressed as a separate therapy.

Treating primitive reflexes in isolation is inefficient.  These reflexes are part of the balance (=postural control) system and should be understood and treated as one piece of the whole.


5.  When a child displays primitive reflexes, they need to use more energy to maintain their balance, in all positions.

When a child’s balance in not automatic, they have to devote more energy to keeping their balance. This can result in less energy available for learning anything, whether it’s catching a ball or calculus.


6.  Postural reflexes are always present in the wiring of the brain.

These patterns are like a default program on your computer.  You don’t see them when the other programs are running, but  if the system crashes (or is under great challenge), they will appear.  If you watch me ski, you’ll see a classic Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex (yes, skiing is a challenging activity for me).  Of course if I practiced and worked on my skills this reflex would disappear, replaced by mature balance control.




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