Will My Child’s Development be Delayed if they Retain Primitive Reflexes after Birth?
If you’ve ever spent time around babies, you’re probably just as fascinated by these little human beings as I am. Their abilities are limited, but they’re equipped with all they need to help ensure their survival. A simple touch to the cheek sets them to searching for food. Stimulate a sensation against their palm and their body knows to grasp. Quick movements or loud sounds elicit a startle response in defense. And they’re ridiculously cute. How could you not give them all the attention they need?
With the exception of being ridiculously cute, all of these wonders are called primitive reflexes. Our babies are born with these reflexes to help them survive the first months of life. After several months, these reflexes are superseded by a more complex system of reflexes and a more developed brain.
What are they?
To understand what these reflexes are, we have to understand what a reflex is in general and what it does. A reflex is a motor response or an action the body takes in response to sensory input and is involuntary. Reflexes are kind of like a security system running in the background. There are reflexes taking care of our breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. They control all of those things that our body needs regulated that we don’t even realize we are receiving sensory information for. They also take care of us in dangerous or painful situations. It’s not by accident that we shy away from the hot pan that we brushed up against. It’s also why we pull our hand away from that pan long before we are ever aware of the pain. Reflexes work that quickly because their job is to keep us alive and hopefully unharmed. It takes care of a situation to protect us until the higher thinking portions of the brain have had time to process.
So primitive reflexes have about the same job, but their job is to take care of business until those higher level thinking portions of the brain and more complex reflex systems have time to develop. Because of how little the brain develops during fetal formation, these primitive reflexes are vital. But you can also tell by watching newborns that these reflexes are very basic. Their function only goes so far which is why the brain strives to develop more complex systems and kicks these reflexes to the back burner.
Why do they matter?
Primitive reflexes come and go so quickly, you have to wonder what good it does to learn about them. They keep my baby going and then they’re gone. Right? Not quite. The absence of these reflexes or the presence of them after they should have gone dormant can be signs that something is amiss. Doctors check newborns for the presence of these reflexes to make sure things are looking the way they should. But then we have to ask what about when these reflexes are present when they shouldn’t be? What happens to a machine, a computer, a person when they’re dealing with demands above what they’re built or programmed to handle? Overload.
Simply put, when babies are born with certain reflexes, it’s natural, but if they don’t eventually grow out of them and move on to other developmental stages, it could mean developmental delays and learning challenges later down the road.
The presence of primitive reflexes when they should be dormant are at the very heart of what we work with at our center. If children still have these retained reflexes when they should have disappeared after leaving the toddler phase, special exercises are needed to help them disappear or other problems could pop up in their behavior or in the classroom. If your child’s primitive reflexes are retained, you may symptoms as simple as your child sitting in the W position, is considered a “toe walker,” startles at loud noises, can’t roll or crawl, wets the bed and many others. A wide range of issues arise in sensory processing and motor responsiveness when our brains are running outdated and overwhelmed security software. So in articles to come we are going to take a look at each of these primitive reflexes and what kinds of behaviors and side effects we can expect to see when they’ve outworn their welcome.
Exercises to integrate Primitive Reflexes
As you monitor your child’s development, if you notice traces of retained primitive reflexes that remain in your child, which prevent your child from fully developing, they will need exercises to help their primitive reflexes “go to sleep” so the reflexes can support their development. Without these exercises, you may continue to notice delays in your child’s learning or side effects that can cause toe walking, W-sitting, bedwetting, poor balance and coordination, underdeveloped vestibular and proprioceptive systems, and trouble with motor planning. If head righting reflexes are absent, this is an indication that the nervous system is underdeveloped.
To try more activities that can help your child with retained reflexes and sensory integration, join our video membership club now to get started with all the exercises we do at our center. We now have three new options available:
- Pick and choose which series works best for you for one price.
- Sign-up for our monthly membership to gain access to each new series on a monthly basis.
- Register for our annual membership to gain access to all the videos we release for the whole year.
Depending on what option works best for you, each series is typically only $1 per video. Each video series allows you to track your progress and reach certain goals you set with your child. To join, click here.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs