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This text provides the answers to the following questions:

1. What are primitive reflexes?
2. Why are primitive reflexes important for the psychomotor development of children?
3. Can the integration of primitive reflexes help my child?
4. How does the integration of primitive reflexes help the children with cerebral palsy, ADHD, dyslexia and autism?

Before we move on, however, I would like to ask you a few questions:

1. Have you ever noticed that your child startles due to a sudden noise, light, touch, a change of position? Have you ever seen a child’s body stiffen while he/she is lying on the back if you move away from him/her (just as the picture shows)?

This is the so-called MORO primitive reflex – the first reflex that a baby develops while it is still in its mother’s womb, the hardest one to integrate! Babies without any psychomotor problems lose this reflex after three to four months. Its role is to enable the baby to take its FIRST BREATH at birth. After birth this reflex is extremely important as it prevents the so-called sudden ‘cot death’. Thanks to this reflex, if a baby buries its head into the pillow, the amount of oxygen in the blood decreases, while the carbon-dioxide level increases, which stimulates the primitive Moro reflex and makes the child lift its head from the pillow and free the airways.  

The essential role of the Moro reflex is the same as the role that most other primitive reflexes have – a PROTECTIVE one. It protects the child during the first few months helping it to SURVIVE, as the child is still too weak and unaware of the dangers that are surrounding him. In time, as the brain becomes more mature enabling us to consciously fight the danger, this reflex is lost and integrated into the lower brain structures, ‘overpowered’ by the cerebral cortex.

Unless this reflex is integrated, the child remains under its strong influence and reacts to any visual, vestibular, tactile or emotional stimulation by suddenly increasing the level of adrenaline. Can you remember being in an emergency situation, when your life or the lives of your dearest were in danger? You started shaking; your whole body reacted to the stress. This is exactly how your body reacts to the hormone produced by the adrenal glands called ADRENALINE. You can only imagine how many times our children are exposed to stress (adrenaline) during the day if they startle at every noise that is even a bit louder than normal.

When does this reflex hinder the children with cerebral palsy most? It has its worst effect on them just as they are starting to learn how to sit, stand or walk. Every sudden noise or any of the above mentioned stimuli will startle them, they will lose their balance and fall, which will have a negative effect on their confidence and make it even harder for them to start walking independently.

Beside its effect on children suffering from cerebral palsy, this primitive reflex is also found in children that don’t seem to have any motor difficulties. However, their parents frequently tell us that their children underwent a difficult delivery, that they had the umbilical cord wrapped around their necks and the like. These children find it difficult to cope with new situations; they are not easily accepted by their peers as they tend to overreact in seemingly ordinary situations that they find to be extremely stressful. In schoolchildren, the unintegrated Moro reflex will cause their inability to focus on their tasks, it will trigger the frequent occurrence of mistakes while writing down the information from the blackboard etc.

These children frequently suffer from allergies, inexplicable redness of skin or various chronic diseases, which are believed to be triggered by constant secretion of ADRENALIN. By its chemical structure, adrenaline is our natural corticosteroid, and it is well known that corticosteroids affect the immune system by SUPPRESSING its reaction. This is really what happens every time the Moro reflex is activated, at least several times a day.


2. Have you ever noticed that your child bends his arm and leg on the same side when he turns his head while he is lying down, trying to say something or showing an intense emotional reaction?

Just like this: And this is my son trying to say ‘Yes.’

This is the so-called ASSYMETRIC TONIC REFLEX (ATNR). It appears in the 13th week of pregnancy, and is integrated six or seven months after birth.

What is its role? This is the reflex that stimulates the development of muscle tone while the baby is still in his mother’s womb, whenever the baby hits his mum’s uterine wall with his hand or leg. Later, this reflex has a great effect on the development of motor skills, eye-hand coordination and vestibular system, which is responsible for balance.

If this reflex remains unintegrated, binocular vision might be at risk, triggering a child’s disability to use both eyes simultaneously, which usually manifests as strabismus. Parents are often unaware of the fact that it is only by integrating this reflex that they can cure strabismus, thus preventing their children from undergoing unnecessary surgical interventions.

These children have weak eye-hand coordination and are relatively bad at reading due to their disability to follow the text visually. They might also show signs of dyslexia. Ball games are a real challenge for them, as they are quite clumsy and don’t show much skill. This reflex might also trigger the occurrence of scoliosis. 

Head – hand coordination is the core of the unintegrated reflex, which explains the lack of skill while cycling or driving a car (especially if one is driving in reverse and looking backwards to the right – their left arm that is holding the wheel bends automatically, steering the car in the wrong direction.) Dysgraphia (sloppy writing, writing with difficulty) is another frequently triggered disability caused by this unintegrated reflex.

Those people that haven’t integrated this reflex haven’t developed a dominant side either (a dominant arm or leg). This is the reason why they usually fail to catch a ball or manage to catch it very clumsily. The explanation would be that the brain is trying to order the hand to catch the ball at that moment, but is confused about which hand it should send the signal to. Precious time passes… and the ball falls down.

I often help the parents to understand the problems caused by ATNR more easily: ‘It feels the same as driving an English car, with the steering wheel on the right, on our roads’... Quite inconvenient, isn’t it?

How does the unintegrated ATNR affect the children suffering from cerebral palsy?

If you take a look at the photograph of my son trying to say ‘Yes’ (he is speech impaired, amongst other things), I am certain that it will be clear to you that the reflex is the reason why he would lose his balance and fall. If we don’t succeed in integrating it before he starts learning how to walk, the same thing will happen. His left eye often ‘dances’.

After applying a three-month massage therapy following Bonnie’s protocol, which is used at our centre, we’ve noticed that his eye has become a lot more stable!


3. Have you ever noticed that your child often lifts the toe thumb independently of other toes?

Like this, for example:

This is the BABINSKI PRIMITIVE REFLEX. It appears a week after birth, and remains active until the age of two. The role of this reflex is to prepare the children for standing. It helps the coordination of right and left leg movement in the process of walking. It also has an effect on the development of CG - the centre of gravity of a body. If it remains unintegrated, this reflex influences our balance and, consequently, coordination of movement – the person is clumsier. If a person’s shoe soles are worn out on the inner side, it shows that this reflex isn’t adequately developed for some reason. The centre of gravity has moved to the inner side of the foot, and the shoes are worn out on the same side… If this reflex is too prominent, however, the center of gravity moves to the outer side of the foot, so the shoes wear out faster on the outside.

Walking is not the only skill affected by this reflex, however. It has a great influence on the development of thinking as well. Children with an unintegrated Babinski reflex often experience problems with both gross and fine motor skills. It also AFFECTS THE DEVELOPMENT OF SPEECH. 

Babinski reflex is one of the first signs of brain damage (stroke, tumor). It is found in CP children as well.

There is a series of primitive reflexes.

The following is a list of references:

Sally Goddard „Primitive Reflexes and Behavior

Svetlana Masgutova "Integration of dynamic and postural reflexes into the whole body movement system"

Mary R. Fiorentino " A Basis For Sensorimotor Development-Normal and Abnormal" and "Reflex testing methods for evaluating C.N.S. development"

Bonnie Brenda „Quantum Reflex Integration

Each of these books describes over twenty primitive reflexes. By comparing their texts reflex by reflex, I found very little disagreement. They all reiterate the same point – that primitive reflexes are actually our brain’s foundations for the regular psychomotor development. 

You can hear more about this from Bonnie Brandes herself via the following link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thedifference/2013/01/09/bonnie-brandes-quantum-reflex-integration-techniques

This is not philosophy; this is physiology – a science. The solution to any problem dealing with:

  • Gross motor skills
  • Balance
  • Speech
  • Fine motor skills (illegible writing, sloppiness…)
  • Sight
  • Socialization
  • Autism

should be in mending the foundations, i.e. integrating the primitive reflexes.