What are the reflexes?
The infant reflex patterns help to begin the process of developing the visual, auditory, motor, vestibular, tactile and proprioceptor senses important to everyday skills we need throughout life. The process should begin a few weeks after conception and has an order to follow. The reflexes are naturally integrated through movement and sensory stimulation. This process is normally completed by the time we are 4 years old, just before we go to school.
Please click on the boxes below to find out what role the reflexes play in development.
The Moro Reflex, sometimes called the infant startle reflex, is an automatic response to a sudden change in sensory stimuli. A sudden change of any kind (bright light, change in body position, temperature, loud noise, intense touch, etc.) can trigger the Moro Reflex.
Some possible long-term effects of an un-integrated Moro are:
- Easily triggered, reacts in anger or emotional outburst
- Poor balance and coordination
- Poor stamina
- Poor digestion, tendency towards hypoglycemia
- Weak immune system, asthma, allergies and infections
- Hypersensitivity to light, movement, sound, touch & smell
- Vision / reading / writing difficulties
- Difficulty adapting to change
- Cycles of hyperactivity and extreme fatigue
TLR provides the baby with a means of learning about gravity and mastering neck and head control outside the womb. This reflex is important for giving the baby the opportunity to practice balance, increase muscle tone, and develop the proprioceptive and balance senses. The TLR interacts with other reflexes to help the infant to start developing coordination, posture and correct head alignment.
It is vital for the TLR to do its job because correct alignment of the head with the rest of the body is necessary for balance, eye tracking, auditory processing, muscle tone and organized movements – all of which are essential to the development of our ability to focus and pay attention.
Some possible long-term effects of an un-integrated TLR are:
- Balance and coordination difficulties
- Hunched posture
- Easily fatigued
- Poor muscle tone
- Difficulty judging distance, depth, space and speed
- Visual / speech / auditory difficulties
- Stiff jerky movement
- Toe walking
- Difficulty walking up and down stairs
The ATNR is important for developing homolateral one-sided movements. When the infant turns his head to one side, the arm and leg of that side automatically extend. In utero the ATNR provides the necessary stimulation for developing muscle tone and the vestibular system. It assists with the birth process, providing one of the means for the baby to “corkscrew” down the birth passage. ATNR also provides training in hand- eye coordination. By six months of age, this reflex should evolve into more complex movement patterns. If the ATNR remains active it plays a significant contribution to academic problems at school.
Some possible long-term effects of an un-integrated ATNR are:
- Reading, listening, hand writing and spelling difficulties
- Difficulty with math
- Confused handedness
The STNR is not a primitive reflex. It is transitional. It is an important developmental stage that transitions the baby from lying on the floor up to being able to crawl. At this stage in development, movement of the head is automatically linked to movement of the arms and legs. If the STNR remains active, it is another main cause of inability to function in school. This is because up and down head movements remain linked to arm and leg movements, making school work effortful and difficult.
Some possible long-term effects of an un-integrated STNR are:
- Poor, hunched posture
- Headaches from muscle tension in the neck
- Difficulty writing and reading
- Difficulty sitting still
- “W” sitting
- Difficulty copying from blackboard
- Ape-like walking
- Vision disorders
- Find it difficult to stay on task
The Spinal Galant & Spinal Pereze Reflexes works in conjunction with the ATNR to help the baby’s journey down the birth canal. It is also thought to help babies balance and coordinate the body for belly crawling and creeping. It is thought to be connected to bladder function because a high percentage of children who are bedwetting past age 5 have an active Spinal Galant reflex.
Some possible long-term effects of an un-integrated Spinal Galant and Pereze are:
- Bedwetting especially past 5 years old
- Poor endurance
- Attention difficulties
- Hip rotation to one side/scoliosis
- Poor concentration
- Poor coordination
- Poor posture
- Poor short-term memory
We also look at the following foot, hand and oral reflexes – the Babinski, Plantar, Palmar, Hands Pulling, Grasp, Amphibian, Rooting, Suck and Babkin reflexes and their role in learning and development especially for coordination, writing and language development.
Some possible long-term effects of an un-integrated foot, hand and oral reflexes are:
- Speech delay or difficulties
- Swallowing problems
- Poor social behaviour
- Dribbling and drooling
- Poor manual dexterity
- Poor pencil grip
- Handwriting difficulties
- Loose, easily sprained ankles
- Toe walking
- Flatfooted or walking on sides of feet/hip rotation
- Difficulty expressing written ideas
The FPR is a withdrawal reflex that emerges in the embryonic stage. It is a total body withdrawal away from stimulus that is normal in utero. The baby in utero reacts to this stimulus by withdrawing inward and freezing. As the fetus’ tactile awareness develops, withdrawal upon contact gradually lessens. It is thought that this reflex is the first step in learning to cope with stress. Ideally, FPR merges into the Moro reflex and has become inactive before birth. If the FPR is not fully integrated at birth, it may contribute to life-long challenges related to fear. People with the FPR active may often be very anxious and tend to veer towards negativity, which can prevent them from easily moving forward to living a meaningful, interactive life. An active FPR often goes hand-in-hand with an un-integrated Moro reflex.
Some possible long-term effects of an un-integrated FPR are:
- Shallow, difficult breathing
- Underlying anxiety or negativity
- Insecure, low self-esteem
- Constant feelings of overwhelm
- Extreme shyness, fear in groups
- Excessive fear of embarrassment
- Fear of separation from a loved one, clinging
- Sleep & eating disorders
- Feeling stuck
- Elective mutism
- Withdrawal from touch
- Aggressive or controlling behaviour, craves attention
- Extreme fear of failure, perfectionism
- Phobias, OCD
- Low tolerance to stress
What happens if the reflexes haven’t completed their role sufficiently?
If any of the reflexes have not completed their role in development then parents, carers, teachers, professionals may see developmental delays, various learning, emotional, behavioural and/or cognitive challenges in the home, education or the workplace.
RMT gives us the opportunity to develop any of the reflexes that may have been missed or strengthen what had been started but not completed sufficiently to help overcome many physical, emotional and/or cognitive challenges.
There can be many reasons why the reflexes don’t integrate sufficiently. These are just a few:-
- Premature birth / Caesarean birth
- Brain damage resulting from the birthing process
- Shock or major stress during pregnancy
- Illness during the first year after birth
- Substance abuse / alcohol / toxicity during pregnancy
- Not having supervised ‘tummy time’ to develop muscle tone to neck and shoulders
- Not having some time to move freely on the floor during first year
- Put in baby walkers or left in car seats for long periods before baby can sit up by themselves
- Lack of being picked up, touched, hugged, rocked
- Stressful environment
- Poor diet