Primitive reflexes are often tested by your doctor or paediatrician as they represent neurological health. They are controlled by the nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves). Primitive reflexes are important in adapting an infant to it's environment and preparing the infant for higher activities. After a period of time, these primitive reflexes should "integrate" meaning they should not be able to be activated anymore or should show a more advanced predictable response. This allows higher levels of cognition and more mature motor development. This occurs so that the nervous system can communicate more efficiently. Here are some examples:
Palmar grasp reflex
Signs of a retained palmar grasp:
-speech difficulties (connection between hand and mouth)
-hand fatigue when doing fine motor activities/writing and using scissors
-open and closing of mouth when doing fine motor tasks
Signs of a retained Moro:
-sensitive to stimuli-tags on clothes, lights and sounds
-difficulty with self regulation and emotions
Tonic Labyrinthine Relfex
Signs of retained TLR
-hard time judging speed, space, distance
-may appear clumsy
-dislikes tummy time
Plantar Grasp Relfex
Signs of retained PGR
-curling of toes when pressing on bottoms of feet
-sensitivity on the bottoms of the feet
A Pediatric Physiotherapist often will have special training in reflex integration and this techniques can be used to improve gross motor activity and control. It is also used to manage emotions, treat anxiety and ADHD as there is often a link to these conditions and retained primitive reflexes. This involves giving the brain new pathways to replace the reflex that involve more advanced movements. This is done through specific exercises.
If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
Heather Gibson, PT, Registered Physiotherapist, BSc., BSc.PT, CME cert.