Primitive Reflexes

What are primitive reflexes?

Primitive reflexes are the basic necessities of survival that are housed in the central nervous system.  The development of the central nervous system begins at conception and develops in a regular sequence.  Parts of this sequence are identified by the movement patterns that occur at each state, and these are called reflexes.  By 12 months of age, all primitive reflexes should be integrated to allow for more advanced postural reflexes to occur.  As the primitive reflexes are integrated, the child acquires new skills and higher centers of the brain begin to mature and develop.

If these reflexes are still present passed one year of age, it indicates a developmental delay.  Neurologically, primitive reflexes provide the infant with learning experiences that lay the groundwork for all motor and behavioral skills.  Primitive reflexes that may be addressed at Amorose Family Chiropractic include the Moro, Palmar, Babinski, Spinal Galant, Rooting, Asymmetrical Tonic Neck, Tonic Labyrinthine, and Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflexes.

What can happen if primitive reflexes persist?

The persistence of these reflexes can indicate immaturity within the nervous system and possibly damage to the brain. Children who have neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism, or other Learning Disorders often present with retained primitive reflexes, which can affect their behavior and learning skills.

Each primitive reflex is associated with one or more of the sensory processing systems and can affect their senses of sound, taste, tactile, smell, visual, vestibular, and proprioception. If a child presents with more than one retained primitive reflex, they often experience dysfunction in one or more of the sensory systems, resulting in a Neurodevelopmental Disorder or Sensory Processing Disorder.  Read more about how we can help those with neurodevelopmental disorders here!

What may cause retained primitive reflexes?

Parents may wonder “why are my child’s reflexes still present?” The pregnancy and birth process is important in the development and inhibition of the primitive reflexes. A child born via cesarean section or one that experienced birth trauma may have retained primitive reflexes. Additional causes may include the parents having difficulty conceiving or a difficult pregnancy, a premature, prolonged, or traumatic birth with interventions, falls, traumas, lack of tummy time, lack of ability to explore environment during infancy, too much time in a bouncer, stroller, or car seat, head trauma, and vertebral subluxations.

Rooting Reflex

Signs of a retained Rooting Reflex:

  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Fussy eaters and dribbling
  • Poor speech and articulation
  • Poor coordination of breath and speech
  • Hypersensitivity around mouth and lips
  • Gagging or esophageal reflux
  • Poor manual dexterity

Moro Reflex

Signs of a retained Moro Reflex:

  • Poor balance and coordination
  • Emotional immaturity and poor impulse control
  • Unexplainable apprehension or fear
  • Difficulty concentrating and distracted easily
  • Hypersensitive to sensory stimulation
  • Aggressive, overreacts, or difficult to relax
  • Allergies, asthma, and decreased immunity

Palmar Reflex

Signs of a retained Palmar Reflex:

  • Difficulty with pencil grip
  • Poor manual dexterity affecting thumb and finger movement
  • Poor fine motor skills
  • Messy handwriting
  • Difficulty putting ideas onto paper
  • Hypersensitivity to touch of the hands

Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex

Signs of a retained ATNR:

  • Poor handwriting
  • Difficulty expressing ideas in written form
  • Difficulty with activities that cross midline
  • Reading and visual tracking difficulties
  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Mixed side-dominance (right-handed/left-footed)
  • Delayed crawling
  • Increased risk of scoliosis

Spinal Galant Reflex

Signs of a retained Spinal Galant Reflex:

  • Difficulty sitting still
  • Poor posture
  • Bed wetting
  • Chronic digestive issues
  • Irritated by tucked-in shirt or tight waistband
  • Frequently making noises
  • Gait abnormalities

Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex

Signs of a retained STNR:

  • Poor posture
  • Tendency to slump while sitting
  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Clumsy
  • Inability to sit still and concentrate
  • Difficulty with synchronized movements like swimming
  • Difficulty refocusing eyes from near and far objects
  • Slow with copying tasks

Babinski Reflex

Signs of a retained Babinski reflex:

  • Difficulty learning to walk
  • Running awkwardly
  • Difficulty with balance or sports requiring coordination
  • Low back pain while walking and/or standing
  • Tendency to walk on toes

Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex

Signs of a retained TLR:

  • Low muscle tone – weakness, poor posture, and slumping while sitting
  • Increased muscle tone – rigid movements and toe-walking
  • Poor sense of timing and no rhythm
  • Difficulty with judging space, distance, depth and speed
  • Motion sickness