Movement & Reflexes

Reflexes are automatic motor movements or actions in response to sensory or motor input. Reflexes control everything that regulates the body even when we do not realise we are receiving sensory information, such as in breathing and heart rate. Reflexes also take care of us in painful or dangerous situations, eg: flight, fight, or freeze.

Additional Information

Reflexes that can impact development and learning

Reflexes are automatic motor movements or actions in response to sensory or motor input. Reflexes control everything that regulates the body even when we do not realise we are receiving sensory information, such as in breathing and heart rate. Reflexes also take care of us in painful or dangerous situations, eg: flight, fight, or freeze.

Primitive reflexes are automatic movements that lay the foundations of the nervous system which is responsible for processing information through the visual, auditory, touch, taste and smell senses. Primitive reflexes are needed for survival in the first year of life and control a baby’s movements. As the child gets older the primitive reflexes should disappear to allow for postural reflexes to appear and the child to consciously learn to roll over, crawl, reach, grasp objects, talk, walk and many other life experiences. Reflexes that are retained can interfere with learning and brain development. Every reflex should be utilized for a specific purpose at a specific time so higher areas of the brain can take over.

This table describes some of the reflexes that impact learning when retained:

Reflex Purpose Appears Time of integration Retention signs
Fear Paralysis Reflex Physical paralysis to perceived danger In the womb At birth - freezes in stressful situations
- sensitivity to sensory information (light, touch, sound, smell and taste)
- balance issues
- clumsiness
Moro Reflex Fight or flight reaction At birth Between 2 -4 months of age - sensory overload
- hypersensitivity
- poor impulse control
- easily distracted
- mood swings
Spinal Galant Reflex Helps with birth process At birth Between 3-9 months - postural issues
- fidgeting
- issues with attention and focusing
- bed wetting after 5 years
- poor short term memory
Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex(ATNR) Assists baby through birth canal At birth 6 months - issues with hand
- eye co-ordination
- difficulty crossing the mid-line
- poor motor skills and visual tracking
Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex(STNR) Prepares baby for crawling 6-9 months 9-11months - Uses a W sitting position
- poor muscle tone
- poor hand-eye co-ordination
- limited concentration
Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR) Head control and postural stability In utero 3.5 years -toe walking
-poor muscle tone
-motion sickness
-poor spatial awareness