What is a reflex?
A reflex is an automatic, instinctual movement that assists in development, growth and survival. Blinking is a reflex. Many reflexes are active throughout our lives. Other reflexes—called “primitive reflexes”—surface in the womb and infancy and are designed to become inactive after the toddler stage. Two familiar primitve reflexes are sucking and grasping with the hand. Ideally, primitive reflexes merge into more sophisticated movements, and become integrated. An integrated childhood reflex is no longer active.
Why are reflexes important?
Why are reflexes important? From the womb on, the childhood reflex movements literally grow the brain. Repetitive, automatic reflex movements are essential for the development of balance, mobility, vision, hearing, speaking, learning and communicating.
- Reflex movements are the first foundations of the nervous system. Like a block tower, all further development depends on the readiness of the foundation.
- Reflexes originate in the brain stem, or survival brain. When reflexes remain active, the survival brain is constantly stimulated. In this survival mode, there is less ability to access the prefrontal lobes, where we think, create, communicate and make beneficial decisions. In other words, we are more likely to react instead of controlling our impulses.
- Unintegrated reflexes trigger the “fight or flight” response, creating chronic stress. Even when there is no logical reason for stress, we can feel stressed because our physiology is constantly reacting as if threatened. Stress becomes a habit, often below the level of our awareness.
- When reflexes are active, body parts cannot easily move independently. A movement of the head causes an auto- matic movement in the limbs, hands or feet. Extra limb movements happen below the surface level and cause confusion in the neuro-sensory-motor system. This confusion creates difficulties with growth, coordination, reading, writing, speaking and thinking.A child who fidgets in his chair and cannot focus is more than likely suffering from active reflexes. Once reflexes are integrated, head and limb muscle groups can move independently, and the ability to sit atten- tively without fidgeting comes easily.
- Active reflexes cause aches and muscle tension, weak muscle tone, fatigue and the need for great amounts of effort to complete tasks. We unconsciously learn to compensate for and suppress active reflexes, which can cause considerable tension and drain energy. Skills that should be automatic (like reading and writing) can be done only with continuous conscious effort.
What causes unintegrated reflexes?
What causes unintegrated reflexes? Unintegrated, active childhood reflexes can be caused by:
- Lack of enough proper movement in early childhood: Plastic carriers, propping devices, playpens, walkers, swings, jumpers and car seats all restrict movements required for brain development. TV and computer use also hamper opportunities for movement.
- Stress of the mother during pregnancy, breech birth, birth trauma, Caesarean or exposure to sonograms.
- Illness, trauma, injury, chronic stress.
- Environmental toxins and plastics; complications with vaccinations; exposure to electronic pollution.
Movement and Play for Integration
At any age, we can integrate the reflexes and rebuild the foundation of our nervous system through Neurodevelopmental Movement. We start by assessing which reflexes need integration. Then we do a series of age-appropriate activities specifically designed for each reflex. Neurodevelopmental Movement is highly effective because it taps into the same system we are designed with at birth for reflex integration and brain development. We add play, because play is fun, healing and transformative. Neurodevelopmental Movement creates quantum shifts and positive changes. Life and learning become much easier once the childhood reflexes are integrated.
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Location: 3602 Everett Ave
Everett, WA 98201
Telephone: (425) 252-9908
Fax: (425) 259-6317