Retained primitive reflexes can
have a substantial impact on social and educational development.
Inability to concentrate, difficulties with reading and writing, problems
with hand/eye coordination, poor balance, outbursts of anger, hyperactivity, low
self-esteem, difficulty with peer relationships and difficulties fitting in can
all be signs of retained primitive reflexes. Others include being overly fearful and general feelings of anxiety.
Retained primitive reflexes can affect both children and adults, and can make life difficult and challenging. A series of gentle exercises can help to improve or eradicate symptoms.
What are primitive reflexes?
Primitive reflexes are involuntary reflexes that we are born with that help us with survival in first few months of life.
They are an immediate and involuntary response evoked by a given stimulus. For example a loud noise causes a baby to throw its head back and arms back with its hand open (Startle/Moro Reflex). When touching an infant’s palm with your finger the infant will automatically curl its fingers around yours (Palmar Reflex).
All the reflexes are checked by doctors at birth and during regular check ups as a sign of natural, healthy development.
The primitive reflexes are integrated (or absorbed) into body between several months and two or three years after birth, depending on the reflex. They are replaced by higher level reflexes that are conscious voluntary movements
What happens when they are retained?
Problems can occur if the primitive reflexes are not integrated and are what is termed as ‘retained’. When retained they can cause the person to remain in the primitive reflex state, stuck in the patterns of infancy.
To take the analogies used earlier. When the Startle/Moro Reflex (that causes the baby to throw its head and arms back at a loud noise) is retained that person may experience problems with sensory overload or have low tolerance to stress. When the Palmar Reflex (that causes the baby’s fingers to curl at a touch to their palm) is retained that person may have problems with manual dexterity, for example have difficulties with handwriting or holding a knife and fork.
Why are primitive reflexes retained?
The reason primitive reflexes are retained is usually due to the nature of the birth. For example:
- A difficult or traumatic birth
- C-Section birth
- Very quick birth
- Premature / low weight birth
What is interesting is that primitive reflexes are integrated, they never completely disappear, so can in some cases re-emerge:
- With aging (reported in some cases of Altzeimer's)
- Following head injury
What can be done about primitive reflexes?
The good news is that symptoms can be reduced or eliminated through a series of simple exercises. Kinesiology muscle response testing is an ideal medium to assess which, if any, primitive reflexes might be impeding a person. Following assessment, a series of exercises will be recommended that can help to integrate the relevant primitive reflex/es.
The chart below can help to assess whether retained primitive reflexes might
be relevant for you or someone close to you.
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