Primitive reflexes

Move2Connect screens for and works to integrate a series of primitive reflexes.

The following diagram is a very simplified representation of when some of the main reflexes we look for emerge, mature and integrate.

Here are descriptions of a few of these reflexes, and why it is important to integrate them:

Fear Paralysis Reflex (FPR)

Some reflex integration methodologies tie the FPR in with the Moro reflex. This is because the two are completely intertwined. If the FPR doesn’t integrate, the Moro won’t emerge properly, and a person will be stuck in a cycle of fight/flight/freeze – irrational behaviours, paranoia, anxiety and emotional outbursts.

Fear Paralysis is said to emerge at around five weeks post conception, as soon as the neural tube closes. It shows up as a foetus withdrawing/shrinking whenever there is a loud sound or a shock. However, studies in Dr Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal theory lead me to believe that this withdrawal reflex is actually at a cellular level. The Safe and Sound Protocol addresses the Fear Paralysis reflex. In the case of generational trauma, or trauma/maternal stress in the very early stages of pregnancy, I find that it is not only worth working with the FPR but also using the Safe and Sound Protocol to calm down a stressed system.

Signs that the FPR is retained include anxiety, excessive shyness, a tendency to hide, inability to speak out, selective mutism, being an introvert and always needing to be right/inability to see anything other than black and white.

Moro Reflex

The Moro is probably the best known primitive reflex. It looks like this in a newborn.

The purpose of the Moro is to fill the lungs with a first breath of air as a baby is born. This is why a baby’s first breath is such a significant event in their lives. If your baby was resuscitated or needed help with that first breath, this could have affected the integration of the Moro reflex. It may also be worth referring to a cranial osteopath or craniosacral therapist, if you haven’t already done so. The Moro reflex should integrate by around 3-4 months of age.

Signs of a retained Moro reflex include sensory processing challenges – over reactions to light, smell, touch, sounds, tastes, a tendency to over-react to events that everyone else takes in their stride, inability to modulate feelings, a need to always have the last word, trolling, inappropriate blurting, heckling and keyboard warrior behaviour, and an inability to switch off.

Babkin Reflex

The Babkin reflex connects hands, feet and mouths. It is a reflex that helps a baby stimulate milk flow when breastfeeding. You may have seen cats do this kneading action with their paws when they are especially pleased!

An active Babkin reflex causes poor fine motor skills, involuntary mouth movements when concentrating, poor articulation. The Babkin reflex is also very important for attachment and trust, and is very often seen in trauma victims as well as in those with addictions or compulsive behaviours.

Spinal Galant Reflex

The purpose of this reflex is to help a baby develop a sense of it’s own body, find its midline and eventually to work with its mother to complete the very important and co-operative act of childbirth. This is the reflex that helps a baby down the birth canal. A mother with an unintegrated Spinal Galant reflex will have a baby with an unintegrated Spinal Galant reflex. This means a baby will more than likely need help to be born.

Signs of an unintegrated Spinal Galant Reflex include fidgeting, inability to sit still, difficulty coordinating top and bottom of body (for example, difficulty swimming breast stroke), late bed wetting, auditory processing difficulties.

Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR)

The TLR helps with balance, stability and postural control.

This is an important reflex for muscle tone, balance, posture and coordination. When people have an unintegrated TLR, we usually find tensions in the neck and leg muscles. TLR people often have lower back or shoulder pain.

Children with a TLR lack coordination skills, spatial awareness, sequencing skills and vertical visual tracking skills. They find it hard to concentrate, and often have auditory processing difficulties as a result of under developed vestibular and proprioceptive centres.

TLR children tend to toe walk, and may have vertigo or motion sickness, or avoid slides and climbing frames in the park.

Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR)

This reflex carries a massive responsibility. It emerges as a baby starts to get ready to crawl by lifting up onto hands and knees. The act of getting up onto hands and knees and rocking develops near and far vision as well as core strength. The reflex is integrated when a baby rocks rhythmically back and forth on hands and knees.

An integrated STNR is very important for school readiness.

Signs of an unintegrated STNR reflex include:

Slumping over work or finding it hard to sit with bottom flat on chair with feet flat on the floor, fatigue, feet wrapped around chair legs, w-sitting, difficulty copying from the board.

W-sitting is a tell-tale symptom of a retained STNR reflex.
Telling a child not to sit like this won’t alter their neurology!!

Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex

This reflex develops in utero, and is responsible for helping a baby to twist and turn its way down the birth canal.

The reflex shows up in early infancy as babies turn their heads, and we see an arm move in synch with the head.

The ATNR is responsible for developing binocular vision and tracking, as well as secure hemisphere dominance and cross-lateral coordination across the midline.

With an unintegrated ATNR reflex, a child may crawl unilaterally or skip crawling altogether.

An unintegrated ATNR will cause problems throughout life – whether simply mixing up left and right, failing driving tests, finding riding a bike difficult, not being able to swim front crawl properly, or having significant issues with tracking and sequencing at school.

Movement to integrate retained primitive reflexes