Part 2: 7 Key Primitive Reflexes - How Do They Affect a Child's Performance?

Last week, we talked about Sonia Story and her expertise on primitive reflexes. Babies are born with certain primitive reflexes which are developed in the womb, and they eventually are integrated into more complex movements. Today, we’re introducing 7 key primitive reflexes and why it is so important that they become integrated.

1.       Fear Paralysis Reflex. The FPR is a protective reaction that helps babies cope with stress, and is a “freezing” reaction that is similar to a deer caught in the headlights. When a baby has FPR, he will tighten his jaw and eye muscles, contract his limbs and pull them in towards his core. He’ll hold his breath and his heart rate might drop. When FPR isn’t integrated, the baby may grow up to become a child or adult who has long-term effects like shallow, difficult breathing, low tolerance to stress, insecurity, underlying anxiety or negativity, sleep and eating disorders, extreme shyness or phobias.

2.       Moro Reflex. You might have heard of this one – it’s the infant-startle reflex, which is an automatic reaction to a sudden change in sensory stimuli. In response to a sudden change or perceived danger, the baby will involuntarily tighten his body, fling his arms up and out, open his fists, draw up his knees and then bring his arms and re-clenched fists close to his body. An unintegrated Moro reflex can result in sleep disturbances, poor balance and coordination, poor stamina, motion sickness or hypersensitivity.

3.       Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex. The TLR provides the baby with opportunities to practice balance, increase muscle tone and develop vestibular and proprioceptive senses. In forward TLR, as the head bends forward, the body, arms, legs and torso will curl inward. In backward TLR, the whole body, arms, legs and torso will straighten and extend as the head is bent backward. Issues with a active TLR can include balance and coordination problem, shrunken posture, weak muscle tone, fear of heights or motion sickness.

4.       Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex. The ATNR links head and neck movement to one-sided movement. When the baby turns her head to one side, the arm and leg of that same side will automatically extend. By 6 months, this reflex should evolve into more complex movement patterns. Possible effects of an active ATNR is dyslexia, reading, listening, handwriting and spelling difficulties or poor sense of direction.

5.       Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex. The STNR helps the baby lift and control her head for far-distance focusing – the movement of the head is automatically linked to movement of the arms and legs. Possible long-term effects of an active STNR is squirming or fidgeting, slouching, headaches from muscle tension, difficulty writing and reading, vision disorders or apelike walking.

6.       Spinal Galant Reflex. The SPR is the rotation of the hip that occurs when the back is touched on either side of the spine. It helps babies coordinate the body for crawling and creeping. Possible long-term effects of an active SPR is bedwetting, hip rotation to one side, poor posture or difficulty sitting still.

7.       Oral, Hand and Foot Reflexes. When babies knead their hands while they suckle, that’s the Oral, Hand and Foot reflex. Active reflexes after a certain age can be speech delay, difficulty in social situations, handwriting difficulties, flat feet or swallowing problems.