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Retained primary reflexes can result from a problem at birth or during those first few months of life. They can be noticed from something seemingly minor, like being slow to crawl, to something more severe, like a head injury or fall.


Primary reflexes are the beginning of a baby’s brain development and should only remain active for the first few months of their life. Retained primary reflexes can be caused by issues during the birth process. If there has been a traumatic birth experience or birth by c-section, this may lead to retained reflexes. Additionally, retained primary reflexes can be caused by falls, traumas, lack of tummy time, delayed or skipped crawling, chronic ear infections, head trauma, and vertebral subluxation.


When primary reflexes have not integrated within the appropriate time frame, it is very important to revisit missed development stages. These activities can rebuild the foundation and create a new neural pathway.


Primary reflexes are automatic/involuntary movements fundamental for developing muscle tone, sensory integration, head control and overall development. As a baby grows, these primary reflexes will slowly disappear as the infant’s brain develops and matures and the infant’s movements become more voluntary and controlled.


Movement is crucial for the infant’s brain to integrate the primary reflexes. Vision and movement go hand-in-hand in integrating primary reflexes, allowing infants to move through their world as they develop through the early childhood stages of life. From gross motor to fine motor to oculomotor movements, each stage of development is affected by the integration of primary reflexes.


What causes Primitive Reflexes to be retained?


Many reasons may contribute to primary reflexes being retained or ‘active.’


Retained primary reflexes may be the result of:

  • Stress of the mother and/or baby during pregnancy

  • Lack of movement in utero

  • Restricted body movements, such as the infant spending extended time in car seats, carriers, walkers or jumpers

  • Illness, injury, trauma, chronic stress

  • Other developmental delays


Reflexes that are integrated may become reactivated later due to trauma, injury, illness, or stress.



Moro Reflex


Moro reflex is the earliest primary reflex. It affects vestibular, ocular, motor and visual perceptual skills.


Symptoms include:


  • Exaggerated startle reflex

  • Motion sickness

  • Eye movement and visual processing problems

  • Poor coordination

  • Poor balance

  • Light sensitivity

  • Frequent infections

  • Inner ear problems

  • Allergies

  • Poor stamina

  • Difficulty with black print on white paper

  • Tense muscle tone

  • Poor auditory discrimination

  • Biochemical and nutritional imbalances

  • Often in “Fight or Flight” mode

  • Hyperactivity

  • Low self-esteem



Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR)


TLR affects ocular, motor, balance, muscle tone and auditory discrimination.


Symptoms include:


  • Poor posture and/or stooping

  • Weak muscle tone

  • Stiff or jerky movements

  • Toe walking

  • Dislike of sports

  • Eye movement, spatial and visual perceptual problems

  • Motion sickness

  • Poor balance

  • Poor organization skills

  • Poor sequencing skills

  • Poor coordination

  • Poor sense of time



Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR)


STNR affects fixation, focusing from far to near and crossing midline.


Symptoms include:

  • Poor posture

  • Difficulty catching and/or tracking a ball

  • Poor depth perception and balance

  • Difficulty swimming

  • Poor hand-eye coordination

  • Messy eating

  • Difficulties adjusting focus from far to near

  • Poor swimming skills

  • Learning problems

  • Difficulty aligning numbers for math problems

  • Difficulty recognizing social cues

  • ADD/ADHD characteristics

  • Anchors feet behind chair while sitting

  • “W” position when sitting on the floor



Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR)


ATNR affects midline issues, eye tracking, balance, handwriting and laterality.


Symptoms include:




Spinal Galant Reflex


Spinal Galant reflex affects the ability to sit still, short-term memory, concentration problems and can lead to bedwetting.


Symptoms include:


  • Bedwetting

  • Fidgety or wiggly

  • Sensory issues with food texture or tags or waistbands in clothing

  • Poor short-term memory

  • Poor concentration

  • ADHD characteristics



How does vision therapy help?


We are proud to assist your child with a primary reflex integration program. This will involve the specific movements and patterns that make it possible to retrain their brain and control the center for the reflexes.  Reflexes can be integrated by using rhythmic movement training techniques that imitate the movements of an infant in development. These repetitive motions develop the reflexes and gradually help develop the front and visual cortex of the brain.


Once these reflexes are integrated by the body, many behavioral issues affected by retained primary reflexes become resolved. Since, vision is directly linked with the brain and is affected when our brains do not develop correctly, it is important to address the issue. By addressing these reflexes, a vision therapy program provides a comprehensive approach to resolving these problems.


Not treating your child for retained primary reflexes can lead to impulsivity, hyperactivity, aggression, developmental delays, anxiety, fear, poor academic performance, and poor intellectual development.

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