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How Retained Primitive Reflexes Cause Visual System Delays | ilslearningcorner.com

How Retained Primitive Reflexes Cause Visual System Delays

In this article, we discuss how retained Primitive Reflexes can cause visual system delays. 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.

There are so many pieces to the visual system and how it can impact a child’s learning. So, for this article we will mainly focus on how the visual system can be affected by retained Primitive Reflexes.

A child’s visual system is the most important learning area for reading and writing. If kids did not reach their visual milestones, they are often delayed when tracking words on the page, writing letters and copying notes in class. The visual system is also needed to perform functional skills, like tying shoes, getting dressed, eating food and much more.

Visual Learning Delays

Without a strong visual system, you may notice children struggling with eye-hand movements and how they process information. A child’s ability to observe and recognize information about forms, shapes, figures and objects all depends on a child’s visual motor abilities. There are also a number of visual processing disorders that may develop if a child struggles with their visual system.

To visually process information, a child must use three main areas of the visual system:

To learn more about how to recognize the signs of visual system delays and visual processing issues in children, click here.

Visual Skills and Retained Primitive Reflexes

If a child has one or more retained Primitive Reflexes, children may experience problems in a number of learning areas. Research continues to show how retained reflexes can impact a child’s motor, developmental and visual development. To learn more, here are a few retained reflexes that may impact a child’s learning ability when it comes to their visual system.

ATNR Reflex

The ATNR reflex plays an early role in eye-hand coordination. If the ATNR is retained, the child’s ability to use their eye-hand coordination, eye tracking, binocular vision and visual-motor skills may be impaired. Sadly, more than 50 percent of children with a retained ATNR reflex are diagnosed with Dyslexia. Children with Dyslexia are more likely to have a retained ATNR as well as other visual-motor problems.

If the ATNR reflex is the only reflex retained, a child typically learns to read by compensating for control of eye movements. However, handwriting continues to be a problem because writing also requires control of the hands as well as the eyes. If a child tries to control the hand, they often struggle to get both the hands and eyes working together.

Kids with a retained ATNR reflex have trouble visually tracking an object across the page or a 180-degree arc. If a child focuses on an object and tries to visually follow it in a straight line, the child usually can’t track the object to the midline or past the midline. 

A retained ATNR reflex may prevent a child from developing their long-distance vision as well. They may begin to see blurred or double images. In some cases, kids experience erratic eye movements that make print appear to jump all over the page.

STNR Reflex

While the ATNR reflex causes trouble when the child turns their head from side-to-side, the STNR reflex plays a role in the child’s visual development from near to far. The child’s near vision is activated as the child’s head goes down. The child’s far vision is activated as the child’s head rises. This may cause issues with farsightedness as well as visual tracking letters and words across the page.

Like the ATNR, the STNR also causes binocular vision when the child tries to use both eyes at the same time. This may present a problem when a child needs to focus from near to far, especially when copying notes from the chalkboard back to their paper.

Visual perception is also impacted when a child tries to control the position of their head and body. The retained STNR reflex does not allow the child to use intentional movements, which causes issues for their visual perception skills.

TLR Reflex

Kids with a retained TLR reflex often struggle with visual tracking issues. This retained reflex is responsible for causing more problems with visual perception and eye movements. Copying notes is very difficult.

Visual alignment skills are often unbalanced as well. The child may appear to be cross-eyed when they try to perform visual tasks in the classroom.

Head-righting Reflex

The ocular head-righting reflex responds to visual information and functions when the eyes are open. It stabilizes the head and allows the eyes to stay fixed on a target despite the movement of the body. If the head-righting reflex is retained, kids may find it hard to shift their gaze without moving their head. This causes trouble when the child is trying to read and write across the page.

Primitive Reflexes Roadmap

If you are interested in learning more about retained Primitive Reflexes and how they affect a child’s learning development, download the Primitive Reflexes Roadmap here:


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

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