The BrainAhead Developmental Foundations 14-week Video Series program guides students through specific and slow movements designed to integrate any primitive reflexes that may be retained. To appeal to children, the videos are only six to ten minutes long and are led by animated characters, Belle and Tex. The movements are research-based and were designed to break down and mimic developmental motor skills.
What are primitive reflexes?
Babies have these reflexes to help them survive and interact with their surroundings. They facilitate connections between brain regions that play a role in learning, as well as behavioural and communication skills later on. The Moro reflex, palmar reflex, asymmetrical tonic neck reflex, tonic labyrinthine reflex, and symmetrical tonic neck reflex are the most commonly discussed primitive reflexes.
What happens if primitive reflexes are retained?
In typical development as the brain becomes more complex, it dampens these reflexes so that by about age 1 they are no longer present. If the primitive reflexes are retained, as we are increasingly seeing these days, it can lead to a number of problems including poor posture, attentional difficulties, poor handwriting and difficulty in self-regulation. These difficulties can in turn affect children’s academic develop independent control of upper and lower limbs, thereby helping rewire the brain and inhibit the primitive reflexes.
The best part about BrainAhead's program is that no special training is required to use it! Traditionally, movement interventions to address retained primitive reflexes have been done by professionals such as Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Chiropractors and Vision Therapists. At BrainAhead, we have taken care of researching the reflexes, learning about the brain and selecting specific movements, all you need to do is press “play”!
Keep reading to learn about BrainAhead’s 2020-2021 evaluation of the Developmental Foundations course!
Who participated in this study?
148 students in Kindergarten were recruited from seven classrooms in five independent schools in rural and suburban communities of a western Canadian province (British Columbia). The students in the Developmental Foundations course comprised 59.5% of the sample (males=47, females=40, did not disclose=1), leaving 40.5% of the sample to go about their typical classroom routines (males=28, females=32).
What was evaluated?
We evaluated students’ strengths in social and emotional competencies by asking teachers to complete the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment Mini (DESSA-mini) at the beginning and end of the study. We also wanted to see whether the children’s executive functioning (EF) changed, so the ADHD Rating Scale-5 School Version was filled out at both time points by the teachers for participating students as well. The ADHD Rating Scale-5 measured total symptoms of ADHD, symptoms of inattention, symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity, and impairment due to these symptoms.
What were the results?
The results showed beneficial changes in students who participated in the Developmental Foundations course compared to students in the control group. Controlling for baseline differences between the two groups, the intervention group showed statistically significant changes compared to the control group for four out of five variables: symptoms of inattention decreased, symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity decreased, total ADHD symptoms decreased, and social and emotional competencies increased. There was not a statistically significant change for ratings of functional impairment for these students. Children in the control group showed no statistically significant changes after 14 weeks of going about their school days as usual.
What does this mean?
Since the symptoms of ADHD were being examined as proxies for EF, the results suggest improved EF for children who participated in the Developmental Foundations course! Furthermore, the lack of statistically significant changes for the control group suggests that the current class curriculum may not be sufficient for building EF skills and gaining competency in core social emotional learning (SEL) skills.
Executive Functioning (EF): This refers to higher-level cognitive skills such as planning, self-control, working memory, organization, and time management.
Social Emotional Learning (SEL): This refers to learning the core social and emotional skills vital for healthy development, general wellbeing, and academic success.
Social Emotional Competencies (SECs): These are the skills which SEL aims to improve. According to CASEL, the five core competencies are: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.