PRIMITIVE REFLEXES: How Retained Primitive Reflexes are Holding My Child Back in Learning and Motor Development
How Retained Primitive Reflexes are Holding My Child Back in Learning and Motor Development This…
This article provides helpful information about a retained STNR and how it impacts a child’s behavior and learning ability. 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.
When you are talking about good health in children, correct posture is at the top of the list. Good posture is as important as eating right, exercising and developing the mind with cognitive learning. Just like getting a good night’s rest gives your child the energy to do the things they need to do each day, good posture is a way of gaining more energy in the body to prevent fatigue and stress.
Often, poor posture in childhood comes from an injury or fall. Sometimes, it is an environmental factor like poor sleeping habits (inadequate mattress). Did you know, however, that in a child, poor posture could signal that they have a retained primitive reflex? This poor posture could be affecting everything in their lives from daily tasks to learning in the classroom.
If you have read additional articles on primitive reflexes, you know that there are many that a child is born with. The Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR) appears at six to nine months of age and it is a short-lived reflex that usually integrates between nine to eleven months of age. The STNR is a transitory reflex and assists in the development of the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR). Despite it’s short existence, the STNR is a crucial instrument in the symphony of reflexes.
This influential reflex also contributes to correct bilateral movement and processing information in both hemispheres of the brain. Eye-hand coordination is developed and all of this leads to the important milestones that the baby will experience, including, the baby getting on all fours and rocking back and forth, which leads to full crawling.
When the STNR stays around for longer than it should, it is considered retained. What does this look like? Many times an older baby (around the crawling age of 6 to 12 months) cannot coordinate the upper and lower body. Sometimes, the child will “bear walk” on her hands and feet because without that coordination of eye-hand and upper and lower body, crawling on hands and knees won’t happen. Another red flag is floppy muscle tone. As the child ages, they tend to develop poor posture both standing and sitting. The child will usually prefer to lie on the floor because sitting in a cross-legged position is uncomfortable. Anything pressing on the child’s back will cause them to fidget and squirm. This is often why they struggle with attention and focus issues in the classroom. When the child does sit on the floor, they will many times sit in the “W-position.”
Another sign of a retained STNR is when a child has unsynchronized movements with swimming. They don’t have enough upper and lower body coordination to handle the overall swimming movement. Additional signs of a retained STNR include the following:
As the child gets older and moves into the school environment, if the STNR is still present, it can create a multitude of problems. This is especially the case when the child is seated. Poor concentration sometimes leads to fidgeting in the chair, especially when the chair is pressing against the child’s back. This can be distracting and even painful for the child, which may be the cause of the child acting out in the classroom. While many parents often think their child could have ADHD because of this issue, fidgeting and attention issues may be due to a retained STNR. However, children that have a specific diagnosis of ADHD or attention issues can also have a retained STNR, which causes the child even more discomfort int he classroom.
Reading difficulties may be present and often go hand-in-hand with handwriting issues. When a child has the STNR present they often struggle with their visual coordination. As they try to track words across the page or adjust their focus from near to far, they will have difficulty reading books and reading the whiteboard and then copying those notes back to the paper at their desk.
During the critical years of kindergarten through third grade, children are learning the in-depth task of handwriting. It is an advanced skill that requires a great deal of concentration, short-term memory and muscle memory. Poor handwriting can also be a factor in a child that has a retained STNR. Due to poor concentration and fidgeting, the child may show decreased attention to schoolwork, which includes a large portion of handwriting practice.
Many children with a retained STNR also struggle with math. Math pages are often filled with columns and numbers and are sprawled out over the paper. The columns of numbers are usually diagonal down the page. Number reversals (for example, 12 vs. 21 and13 vs. 31) are common. When working on math problems, the child needs to be in the most comfortable position for focusing. This could be laying on the floor or standing at a table. Graph paper will help keep the numbers and columns straight and ensure only a few problems are on each page so the child can “spread out” their work.
In one study, children who had ADHD were tested for retained primitive reflexes and the STNR was found in many of the children that were observed. In The Symphony of Reflexes, Bonnie L. Brandes, describes what is common emotionally in a child that has a retained STNR:
“Behaviorally and emotionally, the child with a retained STNR may exhibit poor impulse control. Due to the discomfort of sitting in one position, she may display poor attention and concentration when forced to sit still.”
In the above study, ADHD characteristics started to decrease when the STNR was integrated.
If you have tested your child or student for the STNR primitive reflex and are sure they have retained it, your child may continue to show signs of poor posture, W-sitting, balance and coordination issues, and learning problems in the classroom. Your child may need specific exercises that will integrate the reflex that should have gone to sleep when they were a baby so your child’s body can integrate better in the classroom.
The Retained Primitive Reflexes 101 e-Course provides beneficial exercises and contains videos, instructions and pictures that may help with a retained Primitive Reflex. The e-Course is only offered two times a year so join now to save your spot!
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges 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