What is all this about reflexes?

Childhood developmental reflexes

A short explanation on childhood reflexes.

A reflex is an automatic, instantaneous response to a stimulus. We establish many childhood reflexes in utero as our nerve pathways develop. When a baby is born, many of its movements are reflexive. For example, a touch to the baby’s cheek causes them to turn their head toward the breast (this is the rooting reflex). Then, the breast touching the top of the mouth sets off the suck reflex. The suck reflex is important for developing neck flexion, neck extension and eye convergence.

Babies are born with as many as 75 reflexes! Those include hand reflexes (to develop fine motor skills), foot reflexes (to develop creeping, crawling and gait), oral-facial, visual, auditory, vestibular and deep pressure reflexes. It is important to realize that these help develop core strength, bilateral coordination, and trunk movement. You can read more about newborn reflexes here.

To clarify, some reflexes are for survival, and some are for continued development. As a child grows, these initial reflexes develop and/or integrate, and higher level reflexes (cognitive or intellectual) evolve in their place. You can click here to understand a little more about how childhood reflexes should progress.

How can we help?

At TLC Kids Therapy, we evaluate children of all ages for reflexes. Often, we find that a 7 or 8-year-old has a reflex that should have disappeared and/or integrated at 6 months. Think of it as building blocks: reflexes build the foundation. As a result, delays in integration of reflexes can cause a domino effect of problems with developmental skills. This can then cause troubles with crawling, walking, attention to task, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and visual-motor skills.

But the good news is that our therapists at TLC are trained in various methods to help move those stagnant blocks along, so that higher level reflexes can develop and flourish! If you think your child is struggling with delays, please call and set up an evaluation with one of our wonderful staff.

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