• Jane Erbe, OTR/L

What are primitive reflexes and how do they impact my child?

Updated: Sep 22, 2019


Have you ever heard the term "primitive reflexes" and wonder what the heck they are? Honestly, between doing laundry, making dinner, and getting the kids ready for school, you probably haven't, but you should! Primitive reflexes have a huge impact on childhood development and your child's success in school.

Primitive reflexes are the reason why all children go through specific developmental movement patterns; from rolling over to sitting up to crawling to standing (don't get me started about how crawling has become "optional" for some professionals!! I'll address that in a separate blog!) As a child grows and moves through the different stages of development, the reflex gets integrated and is no longer needed. However, sometimes reflexes don't get fully integrated and they hinder the child from developing higher level skills.

Healthy children are active and their natural curiosity stimulates them to move their bodies and develop greater and greater motor skills. However our current culture seems driven to make our children more and more sedentary. The restrictions on tummy time, constrictive baby-seats, limited recess time, and ever increasing apps and computer games geared towards younger and younger children have all had a significant impact on childhood development and natural reflex integration. However, it's not too late to make changes with your own child.

To give you some examples of unintegrated reflexes~

  • Know a child who frequently walks on their toes? The babinski reflex may be unintegrated

  • Know a child who is having trouble with potty training? The spinal galant reflex could be influencing this

  • Know a child who lacks a hand dominance? Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) should be looked at

  • Know a child that has trouble sitting still at their desk? Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR) could be the culprit!

What's important to realize is that while reflexes may be impeding a child's development, it is possible to integrate these reflexes, no matter what age a child is. And once the reflex is integrated, the child will be able to develop those higher level skills necessary in life. If you want personalized information about how reflexes may be effecting your child's development and success, click on the link below.

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It is important to know that while early intervention is always ideal, issues with sensory processing and primitive reflexes can be treated at any age. It is NEVER too late to begin addressing your concerns.