Part 3: The Life Cycle of a Primitive Reflex

A reflex is an involuntary movement or combination of movements that happens in your brain and translates to your physical body. Your brain sends your body a message and your body reacts in a physical movement. There are countless different kinds of reflexes that are part of our system, but here’s what we do know: All of us are born with primitive reflexes. These reflexes are created inside the womb, and are what helps babies thrive and grow in their early stages of infancy and toddlerhood. But what we also need to realize is that these primitive reflexes need to disappear or merge into more sophisticated, voluntary reflexes. When this happens, the term we use is “integration.”

In Part One and Part Two of my primitive reflex blog series, I shared some information that I’ve learned from primitive reflexes and neurodevelopmental movement expert Sonia Story. Today, in Part Three, I want to share with you more in detail about how a primitive reflex comes to emerge, and the steps it needs to take before it can be fully integrated.

1.       Emerge. The primitive reflex is awakened. This happens during the process of normal development, where certain stimuli trigger the reflex to begin its life cycle. The cycle can also be triggered by another reflex, because our body’s reflexes are all interdependent and interwoven.

2.       Develop. The reflex is stimulated and exercised through repetition. The reflex movement is repeated over and over, which is why it’s so important to give the baby many forms of stimulation to grow and develop. Give her plenty of play time and tummy time! As the baby is developing her muscles, brain and nerve networks, the primitive reflex is being constantly used.

3.       Integrated. The primitive reflex is finished with its job. It’s been fully used at the correct time, and has become completely integrated. How do we know when it’s been integrated? It’s merged into another reflex or the reflex has merged into a more sophisticated, voluntary movement pattern.

So, here’s the big question. What happens if a primitive reflex isn’t integrated? Experts say that an unintegrated primitive reflex can often be the cause behind developmental and learning disorders. It can even cause issues with motor skills as the child grows up. But the good news is that it’s never too late to release a primitive reflex from a non-integrated, or “locked” state. The solution is through specific movements and exercises, of which Sonia Story is an expert and I also offer here at Learn 2 Focus.

If you have any questions about primitive reflexes, shoot me an email at I’d be happy to chat about any concerns you might have, and see if integration is a possible solution for your child.