Specializing in Primitive Reflex Integration
Pediatric occupational therapists specialize in treating children with fine motor delays, sensory processing disorders, Autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, and many other developmental disabilities, ages 0-21.
They use play to facilitate strengthening all areas of a child’s development, which may include their primitive reflex integration, core strength and endurance, gross and fine motor skills, sensory and emotional regulation, and executive functioning skills. Parent education and home programming is also a key element to supporting a child’s success.
Therapy programs may include Primitive Reflex Integration, Rhythmic Movement Training, Cranio-Sacral Therapy, Ayers Sensory Integration ©, Therapeutic Listening Program, Integrated Listening Systems, and The Haller Method.
Sensory Integration is the brain’s ability to understand, process, and effectively respond to sensory input. This is not an easy and natural task for everyone!
We have eight senses: taste, smell, sight, hearing, touch, vestibular (movement/body awareness), proprioception (deep pressure), and the latest acknowledged sense, interoception (awareness to our internal senses, like hunger and bowel/bladder control). Our brains constantly receive sensory input, filter it, acknowledge what is important/unimportant, make sense of the information, and allow us to respond accordingly. We all have sensory preferences. You may prefer crunchy foods, may need to cut tags out of your clothes, and have a love for classical music. Someone else may prefer smoothies, not notice their tags, and get irritable listening to classical music. We all have different tolerances for sensory input, and we control our environments to help us to get through our day.
But, for some, their sensory systems have too little/or too much tolerance for the sensory input and it creates dysfunction. Examples of this may be the over-responsive child that only eats five kinds of foods or fights with putting on socks each morning. Or, the under-responsive child that runs and crashes onto the couch repetitively because they need more input to feel anything. Many of these children appear poorly behaved, shy, anti-social, impulsive or over-rambunctious. However, it is their overwhelmed and anxious response to their environment. They are just trying to do the best they can to cope with each day.
Sensory integration and primitive reflex integration are complimentary theories that both work well to support the growth and function of struggling children.
Primitive Reflex Integration
Primitive reflexes are innate, involuntary movement patterns that are a part of every individual’s biological make-up. Their job is to teach movement patterns and facilitate development. When infants repeatedly perform reflexive movements, it builds neural pathways in the brain, and transitions those movements from reflexes to voluntary movement. In other words, the child develops movement patterns with practice.
On an ultrasound, we can see a baby grasping, sucking, and moving – all of this being reflexive movement patterns. Yet, those reflexive patterns ultimately support the birthing process. Their presence or absence at various stages helps to set the foundation for later development. They facilitate the skills that bring an infant from a helpless, tiny being, to a walking, talking, emotionally and socially secure little person.
For some children, the primitive reflexes do not advance and mature. The reflexes get retained and hinder, rather than facilitate, a child’s development. Using a variety of evidence-based reflex programs, The Haller Method, Rhythmic Movement Training, and additional movement- based exercises, works toward integrating the reflexes and improving the functional deficits associated with each, individual reflex.
Some of the Primitive Reflexes include:
The Moro Reflex: is associated with anxiety, difficulty interacting with peers, lack of emotional flexibility and security, over sensitivity to sensory stimuli, and poor balance and coordination.
The Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex: contributes to problems with muscle tone, balance, visual tracking, coordination, and spatial challenges.
The Landau Reflex: relates to poor muscle tone, poor posture, difficulty with motor activities like hopping, skipping, and jumping, as well as inattention.
The Spinal Galant Reflex: is associated with fidgeting and restlessness, distractibility, sensory processing disorders, and bed-wetting.
The Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex: relates to difficulty with visual tracking, auditory processing, crossing midline, balance and coordination, fine motor skills, concentrating, math skills, and dyslexia.
The Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex: impacts tone and posture, upper body strength, visual accommodation (looking from near to far), and eye-hand coordination.