Bauer Crawling Reflex: Delays in Learning and Motor Development if Your Child Skips the Crawling Stage
This article provides helpful information about a retained Bauer Crawling Reflex. Affiliate links are included for your convenience. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.
A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2000 reported that children who used walkers as babies and toddlers showed delays in reaching sequential milestones (sitting up, crawling and walking) compared to those babies who never used walker-type devices. Researchers concluded there was a connection between the use of these walkers and delays in motor function, which then created potential problems later with language and learning.
In the insightful book, Symphony of Reflexes by Bonnie L. Brandes, it describes the following in relation to walkers and similar devices:
“What is it about devices that limit crawling and natural movement that cause such problems for the developing child? Simply put, crawling makes a crucial contribution to various aspects of development. The act of crawling helps to develop the two hemispheres of the brain and strengthens the ability to store and retrieve information. It promotes the maturation of the corpus callosum and reinforces the connection between the cerebellum and the frontal lobes. The ability to use both hands, feet, eyes, and ears harmoniously can also be credited, in part, to the crawling reflex.”
Bauer Crawling Reflex
The Bauer crawling reflex appears around twenty-eight weeks in utero. This infant reflex disappears when the baby is around six weeks old, but reappears when the child is learning to crawl. You can elicit the Bauer response by applying pressure to the soles of a newborn’s feet when the infant is lying face-down. When you apply pressure to the baby’s feet, the infant will make crawling movements. The Bauer crawling reflex assists in delivery when the baby is moving through the birth canal. Later in life, it aids the child in milestones such as crawling, and eventually, walking.
This reflex affects the development of whole body coordination. It leads to balance between the right and left hemispheres of the body. When this reflex is in play, it activates the super highway or the corpus callosum in the brain that connects the two brain hemispheres. (Symphony of Reflexes)
Retained Bauer Crawling Reflex
If this reflex plays such an important role in your child’s developmental milestones, what happens when a child “holds on” to the Bauer crawling reflex when it’s no longer needed? What does this look like as far as behavior and development? Because the Bauer reflex works so closely with the movement aspect of crawling, if it is retained, and the infant skips the crawling stage, it prevents the integration of other developmental milestones and reflexes (for example, the symmetrical tonic neck reflex (STNR)).
The STNR is another important primitive reflex that assists the baby in the crawling and creeping stage and can directly affect your child’s posture and core muscle in the classroom if it is retained. If the Bauer reflex is retained, it could also prevent important neurological connections from being formed, which could affect your child’s motor coordination. (Symphony of Reflexes)
Other signs of a retained Bauer crawling reflex include the following:
- Delays in movement control
- Issues with coordination
- Delays in emotion growth
- Lag in cognitive developmental stages
- Frustration, sensory challenges and hyperactivity in the child
Crawling Benefits for Higher Learning
Along with increasing physical strength and motor control, crawling stimulates parts of the brain that are important for future learning. The repetition of moving the arms and legs helps organize neurons, allowing the brain to start to control cognitive processes that will help with comprehension later down the road.
When an infant crawls, their hands become the guide and they must visually decide where to go. These first movements are the child’s initial hand-eye coordination tests. Eye-hand coordination is an essential piece of the learning framework. This skill is used for reading, writing, copying, playing sports, playground activities, typing and many other day-to-day activities.
Another important piece of the learning framework is binocular vision. This skill is built early in the baby. It involves training the eyes to look into the distance and then back again at their hands on the floor as they crawl. In the child’s future learning environment, binocular vision is used numerous times a day in the classroom, for example, when the child watches the teacher write on the chalkboard and then looks down at their paper to copy notes from the board.
The cross lateral movement that occurs with crawling is also found to strengthen the communication highway between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. As the pathway between the hemispheres increases in speed and clarity, the ability to achieve higher learning, for example, analysis and critical thinking happen at a higher rate with more ease.
Crawling can also improve your child’s mental, visual and spatial development for tracking, decoding, writing, and problem-solving.
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, therapists also believe that crawling promotes independence and it exposes infants to challenging new stimuli in their environment.
Is Crawling Important?
While some babies may skip the crawling stage entirely or crawl for a very short period of time, many babies spend a good amount of time moving around horizontally on the floor to grab objects. Crawling has many benefits that play an important role in a child’s development. However, there are many children that do not crawl for long periods of time and show no signs of learning issues or delays. There is lack of proof that crawling is the one, end-all milestone that is the only path of proper development. However, based on all the benefits that crawling provides, it makes sense to encourage lots of crawling and tummy-time. Tummy-time allows the child to strengthen their muscles, use visual cues and practice bilateral movements. We, as humans, first learn through interaction with our hands, tummy-time and crawling for learning to begin.
How to integrate Primitive Reflexes
As you monitor your child’s development, if you notice traces of Primitive reflexes that remain in your child, which prevent your child from fully developing, they may need exercises to help their Primitive reflexes “go to sleep” so their other reflexes can support their development. If retained Primitive Reflexes are not integrated, you may continue to notice delays in your child’s learning or side effects that may cause toe walking, W-sitting, bedwetting, anxiety, fear, poor balance and coordination, underdeveloped vestibular and proprioceptive systems, and trouble with motor planning. If these important reflexes are absent, this is an indication that the nervous system is underdeveloped.
The Retained Primitive Reflexes 101 e-Course provides beneficial exercises and contains videos, instructions and pictures that may help you integrate retained Primitive Reflexes. The e-Course is only offered two times a year so join now to save your spot!
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