You are probably reading this because you’ve heard of retained reflexes and are trying to find out more.
From experience, I know how it feels to have a child who is struggling – either academically, socially or both. It is often hard to know what to do to truly help.
Our development is a little bit like walking up steps: we need one thing to happen before we move onto the next stage. Sometimes (often), people say that their child has missed milestones altogether, such as cross crawling. This is a little bit like skipping a few steps on a staircase: we can still move forward, but not as efficiently, because part of our central nervous system is stuck.
When we are born, our brainstem is the only fully functional part of our brain. The movements we make as foetuses and newborns are all reflexive, rather than voluntary. These early (inter-uterine and primitive) reflexes should all mature into adult postural reflexes by the time we are a year old. However, sometimes, “typical” development is disrupted – due to trauma, hereditary or environmental factors, meaning that these early reflexes cannot mature as they are supposed to.
This means that while our bodies grow, our neurology does not allow us to mature fully – we may have immature emotions, behaviour and not neurologically ready to learn. Skipping these steps in development may cause learning challenges for children, such as issues with eye tracking, core strength or difficulties crossing the midline. We may sail through to adulthood, unaware that we have in fact compensated for these difficulties all our lives, and then become anxious or depressive as adults.
Retained reflexes and delayed postural control are at the root of diagnoses such as ADHD, ASD, Anxiety, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia and OCD. In fact, these labels are a way of bundling symptoms together to explain the behaviours of those on a neuro-developmental spectrum – people with retained reflexes.
How does reflex integration help?
We can give the central nervous system a second chance to mature in people of ALL ages, and help the brain to make new connections, by means of a simple neurosensorimotor programme, which replicates the movements that we make as foetuses and babies.
Primitive reflex integration can help with:
- emotional regulation
- “ants in pants” – inability to sit still
- posture and core strength
- sensory processing difficulties
- learning difficulties
- coordination and sports performance
Reflex integration work is not a quick fix – it should be considered a way for the brain to change itself, and for anyone using the programme to become more self aware and cope better with the challenges of the big wide world.
I have worked with a variety of people, between the ages of 4 and 102, and have a special interest in children with sensory processing difficulties, anxiety and dyspraxia. However, around 1/3 of my clients are adults with anxiety, many of whom are parents who have initially brought their children to me.
In some cases, when I feel it may be helpful (especially in the case of a traumatic birth), I sometimes refer to cranial osteopaths for treatment.
When you come to see me in clinic, we’ll talk a little bit about what brings you to see me. If you are seeing me about your child, I will often do this by phone, so that we can be sensitive to your child in clinic. I’ll then spend some time assessing various movements.
Then we’ll see whether we can start to make some changes together, and help you notice some small differences through movement, and become more aware of the way your body moves.
I’ll then send you away with some movements to practice every day until we next meet. Consistency is the key: It takes around two weeks to form a new synapse by teaching the body the appropriate patterns, and about a month for the synapse to work efficiently. This is why the “training” part of Rhythmic Movement Training is important: we are training our bodies to make new brain connections.
I have sometimes had parents bring a child to me for bed wetting and expecting an immediate change. However, it is important to realise that the longer a child has been compensating for retained reflexes, the longer it is likely to take to integrate reflexes and see positive change. By coming to me, you are making a long-term commitment to work with your child (or on yourself) to make permanent change – there are no short cuts: if there were, I would know about them!
How many sessions will I need?
There is no easy answer to this question, as the number of sessions required will all depend on your particular case. Working out what a body needs is a little bit like peeling back the layers of an onion.
What I can say is that you won’t be seeing me forevermore: I am teaching you to recognise what your body needs, so that you can be in control and manage your needs.
I may also recommend that you intersperse visits to me with visits to other professionals, such as cranial osteopaths, somatic experiencing, or Bowen Therapy practitioners, depending on your case.
Primitive Reflex Integration Testimonials and Case Studies
Emily – aged 6
Emma has helped my 6 year old daughter make great strides in just a few months.
I came across Move2Connect by chance and was immediately intrigued by retained reflexes. The symptoms of retained Moro reflex described just what my daughter was struggling with; anxiety around school and any change of routine or separation, extreme and uncontrollable emotional outbursts and oversensitivity. I was struggling to cope with her behaviour.
During our first appointment, Emma was able to identify other retained reflexes and we started a program of simple daily movements. After 2 months, the changes were significant. Now, after 3 months, she is happier, more secure and self assured. She can think and react calmly and rationally. She is writing songs! And from my perspective I feel like I can now enjoy her company.
Emma has a gentle approach, is engaging and extremely knowledgable in her field; I would not hesitate to recommend her!
Phil – aged 46
Phil had been in a highly skilled job for the past 29 years when he was made redundant last year. Due to the nature of the job, it has been hard to find anything similar, and consequently he has been in and out of temporary roles since leaving his long-term role. As a result of this uncertainty, coupled with difficult upbringing by an abusive father, he has developed anxiety and was finding it hard to cope.
I worked with Phil’s Fear-Paralysis reflex, and released some emotions that have been locked away for many years. We also worked with to integrate his Landau reflex, which is sometimes called a happiness reflex, as retaining it can cause emotional stress, anxiety and depression. In addition, we managed to awaken his Amphibian reflex, which is a life-long postural reflex. An adult who has not developed the Amphibian reflex will often have tension in their legs, and will find moving forward difficult in all sense of the word.
The result of our sessions has been that Phil feels far more positive and in control of his destiny. Positive change has been noticed by his partner, who says she is proud of the way he was able to take their daughter to a gymnastics competition single-handedly – something he has never felt able to cope with in the past.
Sam – aged 4
Sam came to me with a diagnosis of dyspraxia. He was so hypermobile that he would fall several times a day, and had once even broken his leg in a spiral fracture as a result.
On testing, he could not jump on both feet together. He couldn’t sit still and pay attention. Eye contact was extremely limited.
We worked first of all to stimulate the brainstem and make him feel safe. We also worked with his Spinal Galant reflex – the result of which was that he completely stopped bed wetting within a few weeks. Within a few days of his mother starting the programme with him, he was suddenly able to jump on the trampoline on two feet together! School reported much better attention and eye contact, too. Sam is a work in progress, but what an improvement in just three months!
Pat – aged 102
Pat had been living independently in her home of 35 years, until she was over 101 years old. She used to live a sociable life, attending tea parties and taking herself shopping on a mobility scooter, when sadly she had a fall in the middle of the night and was no longer able to cope by herself.
She was admitted to a nursing home, and it was discovered that she had vascular dementia, which is caused by gradual heart failure.
When she was first admitted, she could only walk with assistance and her gait was a shuffle. In addition, her speech was slurred and almost unintelligible.
I did a couple of RMTi movements with her, and to everyone’s amazement, her gait ceased to be a shuffle, and instead was fluid and rhythmic, as it should be. In addition, her speech returned to normal, and there was a sparkle of her former self again. The movements I selected work with the cerebellum, which is the part of the brain that controls conscious movement, such as walking.
I’ve continued to work with Pat, with varying degrees of success. After one visit, she suddenly started taking requests on the day room piano, having not played at all for over five years. This story will be published in Moira Dempsey’s new book, which is due to be released in 2019.
Linda – aged 60
Linda was having immense difficulty in cutting down on smoking. She really wanted to stop, but just couldn’t seem to stop reaching for her cigarettes.
I showed Linda some simple facial massages that she could do for herself. A month later, she had cut back from 50 a day to ten. Two months on, and she has completely stopped smoking, with no desire to smoke at all, even over the festive period.
Darcey – aged 7
Darcey was like a rubber ball when I first saw her. She was impulsive and could be aggressive and seemed to prefer her own company. Her mother was on her knees.
I worked gave her and her mother a few simple movements to help calm her system down. We worked with her moro reflex, and within days, her mother reported much better social engagement with peers, less disruptive behaviour at school and a more “go with the flow” demeanour in general.