Reflexes are automatic movements that happen without conscious thought. Reflexes help us to survive, search for food (rooting and sucking reflex), protection (moro), avoid danger (grasping from falling), to walk (stepping reflex). Primitive reflexes are the neurological building blocks of learned skills and motor development, coordination skills, cognitive skills and behavior patterns. Each reflex has an associated sensory stimulation and corresponding pattern of movements that can be integrated or unintegrated.
Integrated reflexes are important for developing motor control. A child needs motor control to maintain proper posture at a desk in school, ride a bike, read a book, cross midline, write, and get dressed. A child with integrated reflexes has normal movement patterns to complete these functional tasks at home and at school.(2,3) A child with unintegrated reflexes could benefit from skilled reflex integration therapy which will essentially train a child’s brain by establishing an efficient movement pattern that supports higher level motor skills or cognitive tasks.
Let’s look at an example, the Moro reflex. The Moro reflex develops in utero and typically integrates when a baby is 2-4 months old. Moro is a protective reflex that is triggered by a sudden change in head position or suddenly bringing the baby down and up. The infant response is to breathe in and open the arms and legs, and then breathe out and close the arms and legs.
If unintegrated, the child may have trouble with gross motor coordination, poor adaptability, hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli, and distractibility. The child may have difficulty looking up and down between a whiteboard and desk at school. The child may be in a constant hypervigilant state, stressing the body and decreasing immune function. All these factors negatively affect the child’s behavior and concentration.
An unintegrated Moro reflex in childhood may present as an exaggerated startle reflex as an adult.3 Reflex integration techniques help the child to progress through all the phases of the Moro reflex movement pattern, promoting more normal movement and responses to stimuli.
There are different kinds of reflex integration techniques. At Solaris Pediatric Therapy, we use both the manual, hands-on exercises of the Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI) method, laser therapy called Quantum Reflex Integration (QRI) and sensory integration therapy.
The MNRI method uses hands-on facilitation to guide the child through patterns of exercises to integrate reflexes.4 The exercises increase core strength and coordination, improve motor control, and stimulate the nervous system to integrate the targeted reflex.
QRI is performed at specific points on the body with cold laser and sounds. This technology stimulates reflex integration, repairs nerve cells, and is often used for calming.
Sensory integration therapy facilitates reflex integration through fun and creative sensory motor activities.
SIGNS OF UNINTEGRATED REFLEXES
- POOR ATTENTION
- POOR SITTING POSTURE
- IMMATURE GRASP ON WRITING UTENSIL
- ASYMMETRICAL MOVEMENT PATTERNS
- POOR BALANCE AND COORDINATION SUCH AS DIFFICULTY RIDING A BIKE
- LEARNING DIFFICULTIES CHALLENGES WITH EMOTIONAL REGULATION
- SENSITIVITY TO SENSORY INPUT (VISION, SOUNDS, TACTILE)
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our newsletter on reflexes. To initiate services, please contact our office.