There are many questions running through my mind about reflexes, some of which could become areas for research. Particularly at the moment is the role of the STNR reflex. The more assessments I undertake on children the more I am seeing this reflex still fully present. Currently, I am working with a group of 4 year olds using the INPP “Wings of Childhood” Programme. The children whom I chose to assess had displayed areas of balance insecurity and/or some evidence of Primitive Reflex involvement. All the children assessed had at least partial evidence of the STNR, and some couldn’t even stay in the quadruped position.
The role of the STNR is to help the infant defy gravity and to fully establish the quadruped position for creeping. It helps to break up the effect of the TLR and is thought to train the eyes in the skill of accommodation. This reflex emerges about 5 – 6 months of postnatal life and should be inhibited by 11 months of postnatal life. It is for this reason that its strong presence at 4+ years old is concerning. This can lead to issues with upper and lower body integration which makes sitting at a desk extremely difficult and uncomfortable. This then effects concentration and attention levels, as well as hand-eye coordination, vertical tracking, posture and strength to name a few.
Since my study in the INPP method, I have realised that I have a retained STNR myself. Looking back on my childhood I can see the many times this has affected both my concentration and posture. I was the child who always needed to lie on the desk to write. I didn’t understand it then, but I now see that I needed to develop more extensor muscle tone. As an adult, this need is becoming even stronger with the bending and sitting positions required more and more of me.
So, to help children while they are working through the process of integrating the STNR I suggest that they should be able to work in a position that is most comfortable to them. If attention is drawn to their sitting position then the child’s cognition is taken away from the information they are learning. This isn’t a long-term solution, however but would be helpful while a reflex integration programme is taking place. In addition to this, having them sit on a swiss ball or lie on the floor on their stomachs when relaxing will help to develop the much-needed strength in their back muscles.
Take it from me, living with an STNR is not easy. Not in school, not in university and not in work. If it is put to sleep the child no longer has to worry about their posture, how uncomfortable they are sitting, whether they are upright or not. They don’t need to eventually have back pain from poor posture all their life, not to mention that they will actually be able to sit still at school! Wouldn’t that please teachers! The STNR is linked by research to problematic, behavioural, and impulse control in the classroom!
I think we will all be better off without this reflex bugging us – your child included. Fill in the screening form to see if this programme will help your child.
Feel free to comment or add your findings to this discussion as well. Happy sitting!