What are Primitive Reflexes?

By Dr. Bryant Harris

Primitive Reflexes are the first part of the brain to develop and should only remain active for the first few months of life.  In typical development, these reflexes naturally inhibit in sequential order during the first year, and replacement reflexes, called postural reflexes, emerge.

Postural reflexes are more mature patterns of response that control balance, coordination and sensory motor development.  They are needed for survival and development in the womb and in the early months of life.

What Happens If Primitive Reflexes Don't Go Away?

If the primitive reflexes are retained past the first year of life (at the very latest) they can interfere with social, academic, and motor learning.  

Basically, the perception of our inner and outer environment and our response to it may be disturbed; that is, conscious life may be disturbed.

Children with learning disorders, ADHD, Autism Spectrum, and various other neurodevelopmental disorders are known to have retained primitive reflexes contributing to their symptoms and level of dysfunction.

Each reflex is associated with one or more of the Sensory Processing System:  Auditory, Taste, Tactile, Smell, visual, Vestibular, Proprioceptive and/or Interoceptive.

Therefore, if retained, a child/person may experience dysfunction within one or several of the sensory processing systems.  This can lead to what is known as a Sensory Processing Disorder.

Causes of Retained Primitive Reflexes

Children born via cesarean section, birth trauma, toxicity exposure, anesthetics, etc. are more at risk for having retained primitive reflexes.

Subtle spinal shifts can also contribute to retained reflexes.

Other causes may be: insufficient tummy time as an infant; lack of, or little, creeping or crawling; early walkers; head injuries; excessive falls; and chronic ear infections.

What To Do If You Have Retained Primitive Reflexes?

Through specific chiropractic care in combination with various precise movement and exercise protocols offered at our office, primitive reflexes can be integrated thus allowing for proper neurological development to take place.

The long term results of such treatment is better social behavior, improvement in academic and motor learning, and overall improvement in physical health, emotional health, and overall well being.  

Integration of Primitive Reflexes will also help develop a strong and healthier functioning Sensory Processing System.

If you suspect your child has retained primitive reflexes that may be contributing to behavior issues and/or academic challenges download the free primitive reflex questionnaire.