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Primitive and postural reflexes

Motor control is necessary for learning

A baby relies on automatic movement responses to stimuli to enable its survival until it learns how to control the position of its head and develop the necessary muscle tone to control its body.  These automatic responses are known as primitive reflexes and first emerge while the baby is still in the womb. During the first year, as a baby's brain develops and it gains increasing control over its body, connections within the brain are strengthened and these early survival patterns are gradually replaced by more mature patterns of response (the postural reflexes).


Postural reflexes support control of movement, balance and posture in a gravity-based environment and the development of these postural reflexes therefore provides an indication of the extent to which balance, coordination and postural control have developed.

Some children do not achieve this control fully at this time and grow up with traces of the primitive reflexes present and their postural reflexes do not fully develop - this can lead to problems with control of movement affecting balance and coordination, fine motor skills, motor development and related aspects of learning such as reading, writing and physical education.


Retained primitive reflexes can also impact on a child's sensory perceptions, which can result in hypersensitivity to some sensory experiences and hyposensitivity in others.


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