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What are Primitive Reflexes?

27 January, 2017

What are Primitive Reflexes?

Primitive reflexes are a set of automatic (we don't think about them) movements that we are born with. These reflexes help with the birthing process and for survival in the initial stages of life. They form the foundation for motor and cognitive skills to build upon. As the brain and nervous system matures, they integrate into more complex patterns to allow improved learning, motor coordination and socialisation.

When a primitive reflex doesn’t integrate, disappearing as we expect it should, we call this a Retained Primitive Reflex. Retained primitive reflexes may delay and alter a child’s normal development process. Addressing Retained Primitive Reflexes often involves games and exercises to do at home in addition to in-clinic treatments.

What signs might my child display at home or school?

  • Does your child have difficulties riding a bicycle?
  • Do they have difficulty catching a ball?
  • Does your child struggle to stay still?
  • Is your child easily distractible, having difficulty with attention?
  • Does your child occasionally miss letters or draw them backwards?
  • Does your child have an awkward grip when holding a pen / pencil?
  • If there is a loud, sudden noise, does your child over-react?
  • Does your child bum-shuffle rather than crawling?
  • Does your child suffer from motion or travel sickness?
  • Does your child slouch and have poor posture?
  • Does your child have troubles sitting upright?

What can be done about retained primitive reflexes?

Working with your Chiropractor, parents can assist the neurological development of your child with specific repetitive movement patterns. These games and exercises might only take ten to twenty minutes daily for a few months, but can have lasting effects on your child’s cognitive, motor, emotional, behavioural and social skills.

These games and exercises are based on a thorough understanding of primitive reflexes and normal child maturity. Cassie has collected exercises from some of the world’s leading experts in neuro-psycho-motor development as well as developed her own through her clinical and personal experience.

In addition to home exercises, gentle non-manipulative Chiropractic techniques might be performed to ensure that the joints and muscles are freely mobile to allow the required freedom to perform these movement patterns. The joints and muscles send messages to the brain to drive its development which is why it is important to address any restrictions or tensions in the child’s body in addition to their home exercises.