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The Importance of Primitive Reflexes

Author: Warren Gouin

Last Updated

10 June 2023
Baby grasping onto an adults hand.

Primitive Reflexes are a set of automatic movements that are present in newborn babies and serve as building blocks for higher level motor skills. These reflexes are essential for survival and development in early life, but should gradually disappear as the child grows and develops more complex movements.

Sometimes, the primitive reflexes may continue and lead to developmental problems that affect a child's physical, emotional, and mental growth. Primitive reflexes are important for children's development. If these reflexes are not integrated, it can cause challenges in the long term. Unfortunately, many parents may not be aware of this, and they struggle trying to teach them skills despite challenges with their primitive reflexes.

Retained primitive reflexes can affect children's daily life and limit their potential, causing problems such as bed-wetting and persistent toe walking.  In this article, we will explore the causes and mechanisms of primitive reflexes, the symptoms and red flags to look out for. 


Key Takeaways:

  • Retained primitive reflexes can cause toe-walking, and bed-wetting in children, as well as anxiety, impulsive behaviour, and frustration.
  • Red flags for retained primitive reflexes include balance problems, difficulty copying from the board, struggling to read, and difficulty staying focused.
  • Primitive reflexes can also cause sensory issues, fidgeting, lack of focus in school, hand-eye coordination problems, and difficulty crossing the midline.


Retained Primitive Reflexes.

Primitive reflexes are important for early development, but if they persist they can cause problems. Primitive reflexes develop in utero and should be used and then lay dormant. However, if they are not utilised, they do not integrate or go to sleep, interfering with the next developmental stages.

Retained primitive reflexes can cause anxiety, impulsive behaviour, and frustration for children, leading to a range of behavioural issues. Red flags for retained primitive reflexes include balance problems, difficulty copying from the board, struggling to read, and difficulty staying focused. Primitive reflexes can also cause sensory issues, fidgeting, and lack of focus in school.

Primitive reflexes should be addressed to prevent problems with muscle function, posture, and hand-eye coordination. By addressing these primitive reflexes, we can help unlock a child's potential and ensure they reach their full developmental capabilities.


Symptoms and Red Flags.

Red flags for retained primitive reflexes include a range of symptoms that can affect a child's daily life. Balance and coordination difficulties, such as W-sitting and toe-walking, are common signs of retained primitive reflexes.

Children may also struggle with copying from the board, difficulty reading, and trouble staying focused on school. These symptoms can lead to frustration, anxiety, and impulsive behaviour in children, affecting their academic and social development.

In addition to academic struggles, retained primitive reflexes can also cause sensory issues, fidgeting, and lack of focus in school. Children may also experience muscle weakness and posture issues, making it difficult for them to perform everyday tasks.

Parents and educators should look for signs and seek help from primitive reflex integration experts to maximise a child's abilities. By addressing retained primitive reflexes, children can improve their overall well-being and reach their developmental milestones.


What is Primitive Reflex Therapy, and how is it done?

Primitive Reflex Therapy is a therapeutic approach used to address retained primitive reflexes in children. Primitive reflex integration helps to stimulate the nervous system, allowing it to move beyond its immature stage and integrate into normal development. This approach involves exercises that create connections between the sensory input and motor output systems.

The goal of primitive reflex therapy is to retrain the brain by engaging in specific movements, postures, and activities that stimulate the nervous system. Primitive reflex integration can be done through physical therapy, occupational therapy, or other forms of bodywork such as yoga or massage.



Primitive reflexes may seem like a relic of our early days in the womb, but their impact on our development should not be underestimated.

Retained primitive reflexes can cause a host of issues, from difficulty focusing on school to impulsive behaviour and bed-wetting.

But fear not, dear reader, for there is hope. By addressing these reflexes, we can unlock a child's full potential and set them on a path towards success.

But let us not be naive in our approach. Addressing primitive reflexes is not a quick fix, nor is it a one-size-fits-all solution. To detect and respond properly to these reflexes, a thorough comprehension of their origins and workings is necessary, along with a sharp ability to recognise warning signs and indications.

So let us not shy away from the importance of primitive reflexes in a child's development. Let us instead embrace the complexity and depth of this topic, armed with the research-based knowledge and professional guidance necessary to help our children thrive.

The potential is there, waiting to be unlocked, and with the right approach, we can help our children achieve greatness.

For a wider and more in depth view of therapies you can use at home, please read this post - Autism therapies for the home.

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