What are Primitive Reflexes?
Primitive reflexes are automatic movements that provide essential responses through the birth process and after birth. When the birth and the early months go right, these primitive reflexes integrate into the system and are replaced with more adult reflexes to assist in maneuvering the world safely. The brainstem directs the primitive reflexes and require no cortical intervention or thought to show up and later integrate. These primitive reflexes are vital for survival in the new frontier called life. As the higher and more sophisticated centers of the brain come online and develop, these early reflexes that don't integrate or show signs of retention become ruptures in the natural development of the child and can carry over into adulthood.
- Moro Reflex: This reflex acts as the baby’s “fight or flight” response to the world. This important reflex usually integrates into the adult startle response by four months. Some signs of retention are emotional immaturity, lack of impulse control, hyper-sensitivity or hypo-sensitivity, sensory overload, and social immaturity.
- Rooting Reflex: Stroking a baby’s cheek will cause the child to turn and open the mouth. This is the automatic response to turn towards food. This helps with breastfeeding. Usually disappears by four months. Some signs of retention are thumb sucking, picking eater, speech and articulation problems, and dribbling.
- Palmer Reflex: This is the automatic flexing of the fingers to grab an object if palm is stimulated. This reflex should integrate by six months. Some signs of retention are messy handwriting, poor manual dexterity,and difficulty with fine motor skills.
- Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR): This is intricate for the baby through the birth canal and to develop cross pattern movements. The ATNR is seen when you lay a baby on its back and turn their head. The arm and leg on the side the child is looking at should extend while the opposite side bends. This response should end by six months. Without integration shows up as poor handwriting, trouble crossing vertical midline, poor hand-eye coordination, and poor visual tracking for reading and writing.
- Spinal Galant: This reflex assist baby with birth process. This reflex happens when the skin on the side of an infant’s back is stroked. The child should swing towards that side. The spinal galant should inhibit by nine months. Some signs of retention are poor concentration, unilateral or bilateral postural issues, fidgeting, poor short term memory, and bedwetting.
- Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR): The TLR helps with head management and prepares the baby for rolling over, sitting up, crawling, standing and walking. This reflex actually integrates slowly while other core systems mature and should disappear by three and a half years old. Signs of not integrating include motion sickness, poor muscle tone, walking on tip toes, poor balance, and poor short term memory.
- Landau Reflex: Assists with posture development. This reflex activates at 4-5 months and usually integrates by one year.. When the child’s head lifts it causes the entire trunk to flex. When retained appears overall poor motor development.
- Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR): STNR or the crawling reflex divides the body along the midline to prepare and assist with crawling. You can view this reflex by watching the baby’s head drop towards its chest while the arms bend and the legs extend. Interestingly, the STNR appears briefly after birth and the reappears between six to nine months. It should dissolve by 11 months. If retained, there is a tendency to slump while sitting, inability to sit still and concentrate, poor muscle tone, and poor hand-eye coordination.
Movement and Play are the common ways to integrate retained reflexes. We offer a series of exercises for the child or adult to complete between sessions and move through the retention exercise during the regular session.