ATNR: Studies Show 50% of Kids with a Retained ATNR Primitive Reflex Struggle with Dyslexia Primitive Reflexes

ATNR: Studies Show 50% of Kids with a Retained ATNR Primitive Reflex Struggle with Dyslexia

This article discusses how a retained Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) could be the reason behind a child having dyslexia. Affiliate links are included for your convenience.


Overall Look

  • Retained Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) can affect your child’s writing ability, tracking, crossing the midline, balance and coordination and bilateral coordination.
  • The ATNR emerges at 13 weeks after birth and should be fully integrated in the child at 6-7 months.
  • 50 percent of children that retain the ATNR reflex are diagnosed with or display signs of dyslexia.

There are approximately 70 primitive reflexes identified in each child. The reflexes we focus on directly affect a child’s educational process. To better understand the role of primitive reflexes, let’s compare them to an orchestra. Primitive reflexes, from conception through childhood are very much like a symphony. All the instruments can be compared to the many primary reflexes that come together to create a masterpiece. All the moving parts, the transition into other reflexes, and the eventual disappearance of each reflex into more complex, mature movements are the living core of the orchestra. Some reflexes influence movements that hold the keys to educational success in every child’s future.

ATNR: Studies Show 50% of Kids with a Retained ATNR Primitive Reflex Struggle with Dyslexia | ilslearningcorner.com

The ATNR is a prominent primitive reflex that is part of the foundation for the future educational skills of the child.

The ATNR primitive movement starts to switch gears when birth is imminent. It contributes to both the motor ability and flexibility that is essential for the birthing process. After the baby is born, the ATNR starts to develop key motor skills, including fine motor skills, each child needs in every stage of development. These skills include rolling over on the stomach, crawling and early eye-hand coordination used for reading and writing.

The ATNR emerges at 13 weeks after conception and should integrate around 6-7 months after birth.

The ATNR can be identified in a newborn during the first three months of life. To elicit the ATNR response, you rotate the infant’s head while they are lying on their back. The arm and leg on the same side extends, and the arm and leg on the opposite side flex. If the reflex symphony goes according to plan, this reflex will integrate and disappear by the time the child is six to seven months old. (Attention, Balance and Coordination: The A.B.C. of Learning Success)

ATNR: Studies Show 50% of Kids with a Retained ATNR Primitive Reflex Struggle with Dyslexia | ilslearningcorner.com

When a Note is “Off-Key”

Everyone knows when one note or instrument is played wrong, the entire orchestra sounds off-key. The same problem happens when the ATNR is not integrated. When the ATNR is retained or when there is a disruption of integration, the child can’t move forward to more mature motor movements (for example, crossing the midline, bilateral coordination, eye tracking and hand-eye coordination). The retention of this reflex causes the most conflict with the child’s reading and writing abilities if the child exhibits this reflex past the normal age (6-7 months).

50 percent of kids who experience a retained ATNR struggle with dyslexia.

When a child exhibits a retained ATNR, it significantly impacts their vision and reading skills. In fact, more than 50 percent of kids who experience a retained ATNR struggle with dyslexia. A child with these retained movements often experiences difficulty with crossing the midline activities (for example, bringing hand and arms to other side of body, kicking a ball across the body to the opposite side and eye tracking).

Handwriting Difficulties

If your child exhibits issues from a retained ATNR, their reading and vision may not be the only skills affected in the classroom. Poor Handwriting is also one of the most obvious signs of a retained ATNR in a school-age child.

In The Symphony of Reflexes: Interventions for Human Development, Autism, ADHD, CP and other Neurological Disorders, Bonnie Brandes, shares the following regarding the link between handwriting and the ATNR:

“Not surprisingly, a retained ATNR is also strongly associated with handwriting difficulties. When a child turns his head to look at the page, the active ATNR will automatically cause the arm to extend and the fingers to open. Using a pen or pencil will require more effort for the student, and he may compensate by using excessive pressure. All of this requires intense concentration that occurs at the expense of cognitive processing…Handwriting will suffer in terms of quality and quantity. An overly tight grip can cause cramping and fatigue to set in rapidly, especially in the arm and hand. The frequent “shaking out” of a cramped hands is often an indicator of an active ATNR.”

Rewire the Brain: Handbook for Emotional Control and Fine Motor Development | ilslearningcorner.com

Other signs a child may have an active ATNR that can affect their writing ability.

If your child has a retained ATNR reflex, you may also notice the following with their handwriting and writing ability:

  • Straightening the arm while writing instead of bending the elbow
  • Leaning way back in a chair while writing to compensate for the straight arm
  • Writing in a very slanted direction on the page
  • Extremely tight grip on writing utensil
  • Sometimes turns the page at a 90 degree angle when scribing
  • Struggle with fluency in writing, or hard to get ideas down on paper

Exercises for Retained ATNR

If you suspect your child has retained the ATNR because their handwriting, fine motor skills and reading ability may be delayed, there are exercises to help. You can test your child at home and then use exercises to help integrate the reflexes for better learning development.

To test your child for a retained ATNR, we have created a video membership that provides you with instructions on how to help your child. The video membership allows you to track your progress and reach certain goals you set with your child.

To gain access to the testing and exercises for the ATNR, click here.

Video Membership: Join Video Membership for Learning Exercises | ilslearningcorner.com

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ATNR: Studies Show 50% of Kids with a Retained ATNR Primitive Reflex Struggle with Dyslexia | 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


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