For most children, Retained Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) appears at 13 weeks of age. It doesn't usually linger past the age of six to seven months. This primitive reflex activates when a baby's head is turned to the left or right while they lie on their back. When their head turns, their arm and leg on the opposite side flex. For example, if the head turns to the right, the child's right leg and arm extend and their left leg and arm flex. ATNR is important in early development. It serves as a precursor to hand-eye coordination and stimulates developing muscles before birth. However, retained primitive reflexes like ATNR cause problems for many children.
ATNR is just one of 70 primitive reflexes. Children who retain one or more primitive reflexes often have underlying developmental delays including reading difficulties. Half of the kids who retain ATNR show signs of dyslexia or have a diagnosis of dyslexia.
Retained ATNR is associated with motor difficulties, including balance and coordination, bilateral coordination, writing ability, tracking and crossing the midline. Primitive reflexes are supposed to disappear as a child develops. Replaced by other reflexes that facilitate more complicated movements, these new reflexes are crucial for a child's education success.
Signs of an Active ATNR
Some of the warning signs that a child hasn't transitioned away from the active ATNR stage of development include poor balance and hand/eye coordination, "shaking out" of the hand while writing, and head movement from left to right while reading. A child may naturally have an uncomfortably tight grip on their pencil and they may write with a straight arm while leaning back in their chair. Kids with an active ATNR may have reading difficulties, including difficulty getting their thoughts on paper and inhibited speech and reading abilities. A big part of getting help for a student who struggles involves understanding what's behind their difficulty. Kids with an active ATNR often benefit from certain exercises that facilitate natural integration of the reflex. It is possible to overcome a retained ATNR under the supervision of a professional.
At Brain Balance Achievement Centers, we incorporate primitive reflex training as part of integrating physical and academic exercises with dietary changes, to correct the developmental deficits and put kids back on a healthier standard to achieve constructive change in behavior and academic performance. Learn more about our integrated approach!