03 November 2021
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Primitive Reflexes Defined

What are primitive reflexes?

Primitive reflexes are reflexes that are present during the earliest stages of life and aid in birth and survival, such as grasping and sucking. These reflexes help to connect various areas of the brain together that are vital in developing learning, behavioral, and communication skills later on.

What happens if they’re retained?

Once the brain grows in complexity, these reflexes are overridden and no longer present. Increasingly, children are retaining these reflexes, which severely impacts physical and emotional development. If the reflexes are retained, some of the most basic building blocks in the brain are not properly formed which leads to an imbalanced or an underdeveloped brain.

Most Common Primitive Reflexes

Moro Reflex

This reflex is the earliest form of the fight or flight response, an involuntary reaction to threat that occurs when a baby is frightened or startled. When the Moro reflex is activated, a baby will throw their head back, extend their arms and legs, and cry.

Palmar Reflex

This reflex allows a baby to grasp.

Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex

This reflex is demonstrated when a newborn turns its head to one side and the arm and leg on that side straighten.

Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex

This reflex involves the vestibular system – your main source of managing your balance and where you are in space. It is also closely connected to how your eyes move.

Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex

This reflex forms a bridge to creeping and crawling on hands and knees.

The Brain & Body Connection

How do retained reflexes affect the body?

When primitive reflexes are retained, they can heavily impact a student’s ability to learn successfully. Depending on the specific reflex, a retained reflex may lead to one or a variety of the following:

  • Poor posture
  • Difficulty changing focus when shifting from a blackboard to desk; eyes fatigue quickly
  • A tendency to slump when sitting
  • Slowness at copying tasks
  • Attention difficulties
  • Difficulty balancing
  • Difficulty crossing the midline 
  • Poor vision tracking
  • Incorrect pencil grip and poor handwriting

How can we help students with retained primitive reflexes?

The BrainAhead Developmental Foundations course provides step-by-step, specific, and slow movements to remediate these reflexes. By repeating these movements, the brain becomes rewired, and the unnecessary reflexes become dampened. This leads to the next progression of postural reflexes that are very important for learning. These affect how students move, how they experience their environment, and their capacity to sit upright while listening, reading, or writing. For example, students who are slumped over when trying to write, or who appear to have a weaker posture and core, may benefit from this program.

brain development in children, movement in the classroom

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