FIDGETING & ATTENTION: When a Child Retains the STNR, Specific Learning Areas Break Down Primitive Reflexes

Retained STNR: When a Child Retains the STNR, Certain Learning Areas Break Down

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.

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.

Retained STNR: When a Child Retains the STNR, Specific Learning Areas Break Down |

If you have read our series of 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.

Retained STNR

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:

  • Unable to coordinate crawling on hands and knees
  • Poor posture
  • Floppy muscle tone
  • Prefers to lie on floor
  • Poor posture sitting in a chair
  • Uncoordinated
  • Difficulty with swimming
  • W-Sitting

Classroom Behavior

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.

Retained STNR: When a Child Retains the STNR, Specific Learning Areas Break Down |


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.

Poor Impulse Control

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.

Exercises to integrate the STNR

If you have tested your child or student for the STNR primitive reflex and are sure they have retained it, then your child will most likely continue to show signs of poor posture, W-sitting, balance and coordination issues, and learning problems in the classroom. 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’s body can integrate better in the classroom.

To help you with these exercises, we have created a new Retained Primitive Reflexes 101 e-Course that contains videos, instructions and pictures to direct you through the process. The e-Course is only offered three times a year so join now to save your spot!

How Retained Primitive Reflexes are Holding My Child Back in Learning and Motor Development |

In addition, we have a video membership that not only contains Primitive Reflexes exercises, but also all the other exercises we do with our students at our center. If this option fits your child or student, the membership is the way to go! Our video membership includes access to 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 join our team, click here.

Video Membership: Join Video Membership for Learning Exercises |

Sign up for our Video Membership

As a reminder, the membership will include 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.

Retained STNR: When a Child Retains the STNR, Specific Learning Areas Break Down |

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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