Movement and Early Childhood

Norms for movement

Motion Development

Motion Development

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It is very important to understand the milestones of typical growth and motor development in order to create best conditions for their effective development.

If a child does not move through the typical developmental stages this may affect their physical development. In fact, it could be an indication that early reflexes have been delayed or retained.


Reflex development- the early years

The understanding of the role that primitive reflexes play in learning disorders has been absolute key in helping these children overcome their obstacles. To go into depth of how to identify and all the ways to treat retained reflexes is beyond the scope of this newsletter, however it is so critical to learning outcomes that you be aware of their existence.
Essentially, primitive reflexes are automatic movements that are managed by the brain-stem, beginning in utero and present at birth. Reflexes have a variety of functions, the first of which is helping the infant wriggle out of the birth canal and being able to find the nipple to nurse. Reflexes are activated by specific sensory stimuli. For example, at birth, if an infant is having trouble nursing, a midwife would know to stimulate the palm of his hand to, in turn, stimulate the sucking response.

There are many of these reflexes that should integrate and become non-observant after the first year of life. During this first year, babies engage in a variety of rhythmical movements that allow them to practice and wire up their brain for the next step. For example, when a baby is on his hands and knees, she rocks back and forth. This practicing allows them to gain conscious control of the body. As the reflex pattern is integrated, the limbs are no longer tied together and movements can be done at will.
“If the baby is unable to inhibit his primitive reflexes at the appropriate time they will delay his motor development making it more difficult to follow the inborn programme. Consequently, there is a stumbling block to the maturing of his brain” (Blomberg & Dempsey, 2011, p. 50), causing problems with gross and fine motor coordination and sensory perception (Goddard, 2005).

Many children do not have fully integrated reflexes. Correct crawling for at least six months, for example, is critical for the integration of the Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR). However, many children skip the crawling stage and go right to walking. Walkers and other devices that encourage children to be upright before they are ready also prevent infants from receiving the appropriate movement and stimulation that helps them to integrate their reflexes.

Examples of Reflex integration issues:

Primitive reflex Purpose First appears Should be integrated by: Signs it has not integrated
Moro reflex Primitive fight flight birth 2-4 months Hyper sensitivity, hyper reactivity, poor impulse control, sensory overload, social & emotional immaturity
Rooting reflex automatic response to turn toward food birth 3-4 months Fussing eating, thumb sucking, dribbling, speech and articulation problems
Palmer reflex automatic flexing of fingers to grasp birth 5-6 months Difficulty with fine motor skills, poor manual dexterity, messy handwriting
ATNR To assist baby through birth canal and develop cross pattern movements birth 6 months Poor eye-hand coordination, difficulty with handwriting, trouble crossing vertical mid line, poor visual tracking for reading and writing.
Spinal Gallant Reflex Assist baby with birth process birth 3-9 months Unilateral or bilateral postural issues, fidgeting, bed wetting, poor concentration, poor short term memory.
TLR Basis for head management and postural stability using major muscle groups In Outer 3 1/2 years Poor muscle tone, tendency to walk on toes, poor balance, motion sickness, spatial orientation issues
Landau Reflex Assist with posture development 4-5 months 1 year Poor motor development
STNR Preparation for crawling 6-9 months 9-11 months Tendency to slump while sitting , poor muscle tone, poor eye-hand coordination, inability to sit still and concentrate.