Primitive Reflexes: Bedwetting – Why Your Child Wets the Bed or Wears Pull-ups after Age 5
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As parents, we are all too familiar with the potty training process and how grueling it can be sometimes. Those frustrating trial runs with underwear versus diapers, frequent runs to the bathroom, and accidents that seem to happen at the most inopportune moments, not to mention one of the worst parts of the potty training experience, bedwetting. Although this part of the developmental process can be challenging, for most kids, potty training and bedwetting are usually under control between the ages of three and five. However, this is not always the case for all children.
When I first began talking with parents about their child’s learning challenges in school, I listed out several questions that may be triggers or signs of why they may struggle. I would first start out with questions about reading, attention and behavior, comprehension and other academic topics, but surprisingly enough, over the years, my list of questions has veered off in a completely different direction. I now ask parents if their child is sensitive to bright light, loud noises, textures in their clothing, if they have poor balance and coordination, had a traumatic birth experience, or if they skipped developmental milestones like crawling. As I asked these questions, more and more parents began to tell me about how their child was over the age of five and still wetted the bed at night no matter what they tried. Parents would tell me how embarrassed their child was about it and how they would refuse to have sleepovers or spend the night at grandma’s house because they were concerned about wetting the bed. Sometimes this continues to happen even when the child becomes a teenager. As you can imagine, this immediately became another question I added to my assessments and I started exploring the reasons behind why this was happening and how it related to the child’s school performance.
If your child or student struggles with this problem at home, I’m sure you’ve already done your research and have tried many different strategies to help your child stop wetting the bed. The Internet is full of suggestions like reducing fluid intake before bed, have them go to the bathroom before bedtime, use a reward system or set potty training goals, avoid pull-ups or diapers, or even try a bedwetting alarm. If some of these strategies have worked, which I hope they do, great! You have nothing to worry about. However, if the strategies haven’t work no matter what you try and you are still searching for answers, we may know what is causing the problem.
Intro to Primitive Reflexes
In the next few months we will be discussing what primitive reflexes are and how they relate to a child’s learning challenges in the classroom. For those of you who have no idea what a primitive reflex is and why it’s important, here is a short summary and introduction.
Primitive reflexes control a baby’s movement in the first year of life and are critical for a child’s development of motor, sensory and brain development skills. These reflexes develop while the baby is still in the mother’s womb. When the baby is born, and as your child grows, these reflexes should “disappear” as your child strengthens their neck and shoulder muscles with tummy time, begins to crawl, walk, scoot across the floor, and reaches all of their developmental milestones. These reflexes are no longer needed as the child develops. However, if a child has had some type of traumatic birth experience or has missed some key developmental milestones, you may find that these reflexes are still present in your child that should have gone away.
If these primitive reflexes remain present in your child or student, this is when you may find signs or symptoms of poor muscle tone, visual and spatial issues, hyperactivity, poor academic performance, and many other developmental delays that manifest itself at home and in the classroom. Among these signs and symptoms is none other than bedwetting. For more in-depth information on Primitive reflexes, click here.
Spinal Galant Reflex
So now that we know our child’s bedwetting could be attributed to a primitive reflex that did not “disappear” as they grew older, which one is it? There are several, which we will discuss in future articles. Bedwetting is usually a sign that your child has retained the Spinal Galant Reflex. This reflex is usually found when touching the lower back of your child’s spine. Without going into all the nitty gritty details behind the Spinal Galant Reflex, it is the reflex that hinders bladder and bowel movement control. It can be triggered by light pressure on the lower back that causes uncontrollable spinal movement, which could mean that even your child’s bed sheets could activate urination, causing bedwetting long after your child is already potty trained.
If your child still has the Spinal Galant Reflex present, it could be the answer to why your child continues to wet the bed at night. Now it is a matter of getting them the right help with the right exercises to make the reflex disappear so they can maintain that bladder control. Some of the recommendations listed above on the Internet will most likely not work if your child struggles with some of these primitive reflexes and it is very likely you will continue to see academic delays to go along with it.
For more information about the Spinal Galant Reflex and other reflexes, read Sally Goddard Blythe’s book, The Well Balanced Child.
How to test your child for the Spinal Galant Reflex
If you are fairly certain your child has a larger problem with bedwetting and other developmental delays, there are a couple of easy tests you can do with your child to see if they have retained the Spinal Galant Reflex. Please keep in mind that there are other reflexes that may be present in your child, which you will want to test your child for as we release future articles. However, in this article, we will only test for the Spinal Galant Reflex.
Here is how to begin. Watch the video below for further clarification.
Have your child or student get down on their hands and knees. Make sure their arms and back are completely straight. Their back should be flat like a table top.
Take a marker or sharpie and gently trace it down the left side of your child’s spine (from the top of the neck, down to their lower back). Repeat exercise on the right side of the child’s spine.
Notice the reaction of the child. Was it ticklish? Was there any pain? Did they dip their back when you traced the marker down their spine? Were the signs worse when you reached their lower back? If they display any types of discomfort, ticklish parts or dipping of their back the closer you got to the lower back, it is a sign of a retained primitive reflex.
If your child had any of the reactions listed above, ask them questions like “How ticklish was it?” “On a scale from 1 to 10, how badly did it hurt?”
These types of questions will help you understand how mild or severe your child’s symptoms may be and how much intervention they may need to correct the retained primitive reflex.
Exercises to prevent bedwetting
If you have tested your child or student for the Spinal Galant Reflex and are sure they have retained it, then no amount of going to the bathroom before bedtime will help. We need to help your child with specific exercises that will integrate the reflex that should have gone to sleep when they were a baby so your child can control their bladder automatically at night without giving it a second thought.
To help you with these exercises, we have created a new membership site that contains videos, instructions and pictures that directs you through the process. The membership includes full access to all the videos and intervention programs we do with our students. It also allows you to track your progress and reach certain goals you set with your child. To gain access to the videos for the Spinal Galant, and other upcoming videos for all the other primitive reflexes and exercises, sign up for only $14.99. This is less than $1 per video, plus all the additional videos you will get for low muscle tone, midline crossing and fine motor development in the upcoming months. To join our team, click here.
As a reminder, the membership will include all videos and information for the reflexes and other exercises performed at our center to help struggling children in the classroom. New videos, exercises and instructions will be added each month.
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