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Everyone begins life with reactions to external stimuli called primitive reflexes or infant reflexes. These natural reflexes develop initially but are expected to stop within a child's first year or two of life and are replaced with more developed postural reflexes. There are various types of primitive reflexes that may contribute to heightened sensory sensitivities associated with Sensory Processing Disorder, including Moro reflex, which is the fight-or-flight reflex similar to the open-hand and wide-eye reaction you would see from a startled baby, and Palmar or grasp reflex, which is the natural grasping reflex babies have when they try to grab an object.
When there is a lack of primitive reflex integration during that one to two years and the reflexes instead remain intact, they can adversely impact the development of a child's response patterns, delay postural reflex development, and potentially lead to sensory processing disorder. Some signs may include sensory overload, hyper sensitivity, fine motor skill challenges, and hyper reactivity. This adversely impacts individuals with sensory processing disorder and how they react to different situations, such as the sound of loud laughter or multiple conversations happening at the same time.

Moro Reflex

For children and adults whose Moro response was never fully integrated, they can be continually triggered by incoming sensory stimulus. This constant stimulus results in daily stress and increases in sensitivity over time. Instead of gearing up for full learning and growth, the nervous system tends to mobilize in a protective, survival mode.

Palmar/Grasp Reflex

The Palmer reflex is the automatic flexing of fingers to grab an object and should integrate by six months. If the Palmer reflex is retained, a child may have difficulty with fine motor skills, stick out tongue while writing, and exhibit messy handwriting.

Suggested Activities

There are integration exercises that can be done to help reduce sensory sensitivities. Here are a few to consider:
  • Floor-TimeConsider incorporating multiple sessions of play time on the floor between you and your child. Incorporate a mix of spontaneous play with other activities like reading, crawling through tunnels, passing a ball, and building with blocks. Play on the floor for 20 minutes each session and take cues from your child's play pattern. The sessions that follow this initial playtime should include challenges to help your child improve communication, thinking, and relational skills.
  • Grasp ActivityIf your child exhibits signs of grasp reflex, such as messy handwriting or sticking his tongue out as he writes, you can help him subside these reflexes by stroking your child's palm to stop the reflex. Repeating this activity a couple of times a day may help integrate it.

Primitive Reflexes and The Brain Balance Program

While retained primitive reflexes can influence sensory processing disorder, it's not impossible to manage. The Brain Balance Program has been designed under the guidance of Dr. Robert Melillo’s groundbreaking research. A key element in his clinical research is that children with neurological disorders sometimes need additional stimulation to help integrate these primitive reflexes, which then allows healthy development to continue moving forward. Our program incorporates exercises like primitive reflex integration exercises specific to your child's unique needs based on a comprehensive assessment conducted at the onset of enrollment. 


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