Canadas Homeschool Alberta 3.3 Spring : Page 9

LEARNING RESOURCE inFanT & EaRly Childhood REFlEXEs There are some terms showing up in more and more books, in articles and on the internet, and they are being used by numerous therapists and other professionals. These terms are: Infant and Early Childhood Reflexes, Dynamic and Postural by Patricia Elford B.Sc. M.Ed Licenced.Brain.Gym®. Consultant Reflexes, Primitive Reflexes, Developmental Stages, Neurological Development, and Neurokinesiology. We are just beginning to understand the importance of developmental stages which are essential for efficient growth and development and the nature and place of the reflexes which are associated with the developmental stages. We are beginning to understand how these stages impact the lives of our children and even our own lives. The various reflexes influence motor development, take part in buildingmovement patterns and have a crucial influence on the development of the brain. Then, as we develop, they are very important in the mental and intellectual processes throughout life. They are the neurological basis for the development of controlled movements, giving the possibility to make choices in reasoning. They enrich physical movement and sports performance, mental-emotional skills, are important for our protection and helping us to survive in stress situations, because in stress situations we constantly revisit our first movement patterns. Reflexes are automatic responses directed from the brain stem. These early reflexes are essential for survival in the womb and for the first few months of life. After birth, they ensure the infant has an immediate response to the environment. They are triggered by touch, images, sounds and by head and neck movements. Challenges arise when these reflexes do not become “integrated” into more mature areas of the brain where the child has control over responses. Unintegrated reflexes take energy from the central nervous system and are the underlying cause of many , learning and behaviour challenges including hyperactivity, dyslexia, disruptive behaviour, poor memory, concentration, focus and coordination. Because learning new things is one of the most draining activities on the central nervous system, a person can easily begin to experience overload when new information is presented if the reflexes have not been integrated. There are many reflexes. The Moro Reflex is the startle reflex and develops in the womb where it encourages movement. When we are born this reflex is present in the first cry and in the flinging open of the arms and legs encouraging the first breath and the opening of the lungs. At that stage the Moro is needed. However later in life if it is still present it creates challenges. In unintegrated Moro, the person can have poor balance and coordination, be physically timid, have visual-perceptual problems, be sensitive to light or sounds, dislike change or surprise, have mood swings and have difficulty making decisions and be extremely easy to startle. The Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) is stimulated when a person’s head turns to one side. This reflex is important as a baby is learning to turn over. However, if the reflex stays active in an adult it will show up when driving a car. As the driver looks to the side, the car is turned the same direction. This reflex will often affect handwriting and language abilities, swimming, clear thinking and visual perception. The Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR) is crucial to the development of the vestibular system and is caused by forward or backward movement of the head when the child is held vertically. Balance, muscle tone and the sense of where I am in space are all trained with this reflex. Therefore, an unintegrated TLR could be the cause of poor posture, visual-perceptual difficulties, spatial problems, poor sequencing skills, poor organization and a dislike of sporting activities, physical education classes, running, etc. In the normal course of life we flow through each developmental stage, benefit from it, integrate it into our mind/body system and move on to the next stage. So, for most people the reflexes are integrated through simple specific movements and activities that are presented in daily life, in sports, games, music and SPRING/SUMMER 2007 ISSUE 9

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