Primitive Reflexes: Why a Retained Spinal Galant Reflex is Mistaken for ADHD Development

Primitive Reflexes: Why a Retained Spinal Galant Reflex is Mistaken for ADHD

This article contains information regarding a retained Spinal Galant Reflex.

When I first began tutoring children and helping kids with learning challenges 20 years ago, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) seemed to be the common diagnosis for almost every learning challenge. If your child couldn’t sit still in school, if they couldn’t pay attention to the teacher or retain what they were learning, or if they had behavior problems, they were automatically labeled as ADHD. As research has improved, studies are now showing that many of these children were misdiagnosed with ADHD. Now that we have more research available, therapists, doctors and researchers are able to more accurately assess children for other types of learning challenges like Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD), Dyslexia, Apraxia, and Auditory Processing Disorders. Because children who have some of these other learning challenges often display the same types of behavior as kids with ADHD, it is often times easy to confuse one for the other. And, to make things even more complicated, research and studies are now finding that some children who display symptoms of ADHD could actually have a retained primitive reflex from birth that also cause similar symptoms of ADHD.

Primitive Reflexes: Why a Retained Spinal Galant Reflex is Mistaken for ADHD | ilslearningcorner.com

Now that we have established certain types of learning challenges can be mistaken for ADHD, what does the research show? The field of neurology, in combination with how children learn, is a rapidly growing area and mostly focuses on functions and disorders of the nervous system. Recent research presents a strong link between primitive reflexes and ADHD, particularly with the Spinal Galant Reflex and the Moro Reflex. Primitive reflexes are present at birth and happen automatically in response to stimuli in the baby. These reflexes are necessary for proper growth and development. Because primitive responses should disappear when they are no longer developmentally appropriate, many parents don’t even know when their babies transition as their development progresses. While many parents are familiar with the startle response (Moro) and the rooting reflex, there are many other primitive reflexes that are vital for development and learning as they grow older. The Spinal Galant is one of these.

What is the Spinal Galant Reflex

The Spinal Galant Reflex encourages movement and development of range of motion in the hips. This important reflex prepares the baby for crawling and walking. In a newborn, softly stroking just to the side of the spine on the lower back initiates a side flexion in the baby and the child’s hip rises toward the touch. If there is stimulation on both sides of the lower spine, this will activate the reflex, which frequently causes urination and could be another reason why bedwetting happens in children over the age of five. The Spinal Galant Reflex usually integrates or disappears in normal development by 12 months. If the reflex is still present in a child that is older, it may cause some behaviors that a child could struggle with at school and home.

A few signs and symptoms of a retained Spinal Galant Reflex are as follows:

  • Inability to sit still
  • Poor concentration
  • Bedwetting and/or poor bladder control
  • Clumsy
  • Irritated by tucking in a shirt or tight waistbands on pants
  • Lack of focus and attention to a task
  • Fidgeting
  • Trouble with short term memory
  • Frequently making noise (buzzing, humming)

Primitive Reflexes: Why a Retained Spinal Galant Reflex is Mistaken for ADHD | ilslearningcorner.com

How is the Spinal Galant Reflex often mistaken for ADHD?

Do these symptoms sound familiar? Many of these signs are the same problems we see in kids who were diagnosed with ADHD. Past and current studies describe that children with ADHD show strong signs of a retained Spinal Galant Reflex. In fact, researchers even speculate that the hallmark symptoms of ADHD, such as the inability to sit still, fidgeting and poor concentration, could be directly attributed to a retained Spinal Galant Reflex in the child. When we look at the core movements of the Spinal Galant Reflex this starts to make sense. The retained response can be elicited by any stimulus making contact with the lumbar region of the spine. Every time a student’s back is against a chair, the reflex is activated so the child wiggles in his or her chair. This constant irritant affects the child’s concentration and short-term memory. If the reflex remains only on one side it may influence posture and walking. If posture and walking are affected, it may present itself as clumsiness. If the child is able to calm the reflex and stop moving, they are likely to lack the energy they need to focus and learn.

The idea that a child with ADHD could be struggling with a retained Spinal Galant Reflex can change the direction of treatment from traditional medication to retraining the brain. The good news is the brain can be encouraged to develop the mature patterns that should have been developed in prior stages, but were missed. In other words, we can re-educate or re-pattern the brain through exercises if done repeatedly.

Primitive Reflexes: Why a Retained Spinal Galant Reflex is Mistaken for ADHD | ilslearningcorner.com

Similarities between Symptoms of ADHD and Signs of Retained Spinal Galant Reflex

 Symptoms

ADHD

Retained Spinal Galant Reflex

Inability to sit still

X

X

Fidgeting

X

X

Poor Concentration

X

X

Bedwetting/Poor Bladder Control (Beyond Age 5)

 X

Impulsivity

X

Clumsy

X

X

Poor Short-term Memory

X

X

Difficulty Organizing

X

Easily Distracted

X

X

Restlessness

X

X

Interrupts Frequently

X

Irritated by tight clothes around the waist

X

Lack of Focus

X

X

How to test your child for the Spinal Galant Reflex

If you are fairly certain your child has a larger problem with attention and focus 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.

Step 1

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.

Primitive Reflexes: Bedwetting - Why Your Child Wets the Bed or Wears Pull-ups after Age 5 | ilslearningcorner.com

Step 2

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.

Step 3

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.

Primitive Reflexes: Bedwetting - Why Your Child Wets the Bed or Wears Pull-ups after Age 5 | ilslearningcorner.com

Step 4

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 a retained Spinal Galant Reflex

If you have tested your child or student for the Spinal Galant Reflex and are sure they have retained it, then no amount of medication will help. We need to help your child with specific exercises that will integrated the reflex that should have gone to sleep when they were a baby so your child can improve their attention and focus, fidgeting and discomfort in the classroom.

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.

Sign up for our Video Membership

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.

Primitive Reflexes: Why a Retained Spinal Galant Reflex is Mistaken for ADHD | ilslearningcorner.com


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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge