As a Neurological Developmental Therapist, I generally work with children (and sometimes adults) with learning challenges and/or behavioural difficulties.
However over the past 18 months I have been meeting more and more with parents and parents-to-be and I am overwhelmed by the positive response and continued requests for more information from them, in relation to the different types of developmental reflexes and how they relate to and are needed for later life.
So I thought that I would give an introductory tour of the two main types of developmental reflexes that we use as indicators to help determine the brain functioning development from basic brain stem control to the more complex higher brain functioning; the Primitive Reflexes and the Postural Reflexes.
Firstly, what is a reflex?
A reflex is an automatic involuntary response to a stimulus – one that occurs without having to think about it or initiate the movement. The Primitive Reflexes are very basic reflexes and are known as the survival reflexes. They begin to develop after conception and should be inhibited (‘switched off’) within the first year of life. They help the baby to go through early developmental milestones by causing movements in response to certain stimuli and are controlled by the primitive part of the brain, the brain stem.
Once they are inhibited the Postural Reflexes emerge. These reflexes allow for control over the body and are long-term retained reflexes. We need these for day-to-day functioning, such as playing sports (kicking, catching, throwing, swinging etc), riding bicycles, writing, reading, balance and many more activities. Theses reflexes are controlled by higher brain functioning and indicate brain maturation.
All of these developments are sequential. However, if some of the primitive reflexes are still present or if they were never developed properly in the first place they can impede this development.
Not only that, retained Primitive Reflexes can interfere with balance, motor control, eye functioning, hand-eye coordination and perceptual skills. They can result in behavioural symptoms such as frustration, hyperactivity and hypersensitivity, and failure to match performance to ability.
So over the coming months I will be writing about Primitive and Postural Reflexes in more detail and give hints, tips and techniques that you can use with your little one to enhance and support your baby’s brain development, naturally and at their own pace.