Article 04 - Reflexes...why we need them!

             Reflexes...why we need them!

When a baby is born, he enters a world with no established skills to help him cope and interpret the overwhelming new sensations he will be confronted with.

So to help this new baby to survive, nature has cleverly arranged that he/she is equiped with a set of automatic reflexes that allow for immediate response
to this new world and his needs.

There are 2 types of reflexes...

Those which a child needs for survival in the first few weeks of his life and that he keeps throughout his life e.g. breathing, hiccouphing, sneezing, swallowing, bowel and bladder elimination, blinking and sucking, to name a few.

The other type of reflexes are essential for the first few months of a child's life. But as part of nature's process of physical development as the child grows, these reflexes change from involuntary movement and reactions to become integrate into a controlled movement. For example the Palmer Grasp reflex. When an adult touches the inside of the baby's hand, the baby's hand automatically curls to strongly grasp the object. As the child gets older (around 3-4 months old) and has lots of practice grasping, the brain decides the muscles are now developed enough to start to take over and the child can now choose to grasp the object or not.(It goes from an automatic reaction to a chosen action.) The child can now control the movement rather than it occuring as an automatic reflex.

It is important for certain of these non-survival reflexes to disappear by a certain age. But for some reason some of these reflexes do not integrate and can be a hinderance to the child progressing in development, behaviour or learning skills. A perfect example of this... before a child crawls he rocks back and fro on his hands and knees. This action is a natural process of physical development that allows him/her to release a reflex called the Tonic Labyrinthine reflex. If this reflex is still in place, when the child lifts his head up to crawl forward, his legs and arms will shoot out behind him and he falls onto his stomach. He will therefore not be able to crawl unless this reflex disappears or integrates.  How amazing that the body has this process in place... and that simply rocking to and fro on hands and knees (before crawling) so easily overcomes this and leads to successful crawling.

Another example is the Moro or Startle reflex.This is usually demonstrated when a newborn baby is suddenly lowered or moved and he/she reacts with surprise.His arms and legs suddenly fling wide, then the arms will slowly come back across his body.
Accidentally kicking the cot or making a loud noise, can often also trigger this response. If this reflex does not integrate into a controlled reaction when it is supposed to, then it may effect the child's emotional reactions and anxiety to loud noises as he grows up. This reflex should usually disappear or integrate at 5-6 months old.

Regular, simple movement such as rocking, swaying, rolling on large balls and play activities all help to integrate the necessary reflexes for co-ordination and control of muscles and skills. The more the baby has the freedom to move (while carefully watched), the more effective physical development and acquiring of necessary skills becomes. You can do it together as part of your together time and play... not only is it fun together but allows your baby the freedom to move!
We have approximately 74 reflexes all doing different jobs so the topic is very extensive.

If you would like more information on reflexes contact Robyn Crowe. The internet and the many books available at libraries and book stores are also a wonderful source of further information.

Please note:
If using any of this information for adult training or other use besides personal, please inform the author and acknowledge the source of information.