What are retained reflexes?

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
  • anxiety
  • inattention
  • “ants in pants” – inability to sit still
  • posture and core strength
  • sensory processing difficulties
  • bedwetting
  • 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.

I am licensed as an RMTi Practitioner, but draw on other neuroplasticity techniques. 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.

My Clinic

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 EMDR practitioners, depending on your case.

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