What are Primitive Reflexes?
Primitive reflexes are automatic stereotyped movements directed from the brainstem. We don’t think about them, we don’t try to make them, they just happen. These Primitive reflexes are needed for survival and development in the early months of life. However, as we mature with age, higher and more sophisticated places of the brain should mature and take control. These primitive reflexes will become a hindrance to learning and development if they are not “put to sleep” or integrated into our central nervous system.
What happens if Primitive Reflexes don’t go away?
If primitive reflexes are retained past the first year of life (at the very latest) they can cause issue with our social, academic, and motor (movement) learning. It actually becomes a barrier to development. Many children with learning disorders such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum, and Non-Specific Learning Difficulties as well as other Neuro-Developmental Disorders are known to have retained primitive reflexes which contributed to their issues. Basically, we need primitive reflexes for a little while but by one year of age, they should no longer be actively working in our bodies. We then need to develop postural reflexes by four years of age.
Reflexes are linked to the Sensory Processing Systems. These are Auditory (sound), Taste, Tactile (touch), Smell, Visual, Vestibular (balance and stability), and Proprioceptive (messages conveyed through our body). Because of this, primitive reflexes that are causing issues usually do so in one or more of these areas as well. This can lead to what is known as Sensory Processing Disorder.
Causes of retained Primitive Reflexes
There are many reasons why a child may still have primitive reflexes causing havoc in their bodies. Children who are born by caesarean section, or experience trauma in birth, are often high risk. Being exposed to toxins and medicines can also contribute. Other causes may be due to the environment they experienced in the first few months of life such as not enough time of the floor, whether it is on their tummy or crawling on stomach and knees, or even lack of specific movement in their early years. Illness and sickness also play a part especially in regards to chronic ear infections – as it impacts the vestibular (balance) system.
Sometimes we need to remember that because the brain is so easily mouldable, we don’t always have to worry about the reasons why they are this way, but instead, let’s celebrate the change that can be made. Primitive reflexes can be put to sleep no matter what age, and postural reflexes can develop if the child is provided a developmentally appropriate movement programme. This means we can make huge progress in a child’s life! We can help their body and brain communicate effectively with one another and allow the child’s cortical brain to gain increasing control over their body. Change is possible! There is a second chance.
If this sounds like your child, contact me now. If you’re interested, keep reading. Over the next few weeks I will explain different reflexes and how they impact our children and their learning journey. From my personal experience to you, let’s journey to make our children’s learning, movement, and self confidence excel.