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Primitive Reflexes

Primitive reflexes are active at birth, or become active shortly after birth; within the first 12 months of life. They are designed to assure our safety, so that we can survive and communicate and have our basic needs met; food and nurture.

Reflexes all come from the brainstem, or the primitive part of our brain; which is wired for survival.

Primitive reflexes are a survival system that cannot be controlled. You might notice a babies startle reflex (Moro; also facilitates the first breath), their sucking/rooting reflex (where they search for the breast/bottle to attach when they're hungry), their palmer reflex (wrapping their hand around your finger and keeping their fists clenched; holding on to find safety) or the spinal galant reflex (not an obvious one); which helps them to 'crawl' down the birth canal and also helps the baby find balance when learning to sit and crawl.

Primitive reflexes generally integrate as babies brain develops, as they begin moving and exploring the world around them, and as the other parts of their brain take over the control of their body etc. Most of babies natural movement/development will integrate the reflexes, eg; rolling, rocking on all fours, planking, crawling and learning to sit are movements that integrate most of the reflexes. Generally the reason that primitive reflexes would stay active are because the baby doesn't feel safe enough to relax, or they are too stressed; maybe from birth trauma or other reasons, and cannot feel safe or in control in their environment. If a baby skips or rushes through a developmental stage, like not crawling at all/very long before walking, then reflexes can also stay online because of that. Basically, survival takes over learning.

Reflexes can remain active right into adulthood, they can also be re-activated due to severe trauma.

Active primitive reflexes can look like a child who doesn't/cannot sit still in class, they fidget and need to move around more than other kids. They might have poor spacial awareness and run into things a lot. They might have poor speech, or dribble, or have poor handwriting and manual dexterity, or really struggle with fine motor skills. Children with reflexes online might also have very long, drawn out meltdowns, be very sensitive to lots of stimulus, or be very sensitive emotionally. It can also affect sleep, digestion and immune function. Boys especially could be more outwardly aggressive.

Kinesiology can help by way of calming the nervous system. As kinesiologists, we regulate the nervous system, identify the trauma and help their body release it and heal. We can also identify the primitive reflex/s that are online and then prescribe the exercises to continue at home in order to help integrate them. The results can be so powerful for children! Especially if they are being mistaken for naughty, disruptive or suspected to have ADHD or sensory processing issues! Integrating primitive reflexes can help a lot of their sensory processing issues because their brain will be no longer reacting to stimuli.

If you'd like to explore this with your child, or yourself, or have more questions or queries, please don't hesitate to get in touch.


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