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Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex

The tonic labyrinthine reflex (TLR) is closely related to the Moro reflex as both are vestibular in origin, activated by changes in head position and alterations to the child's position in space.  The TLR helps a baby to straighten out after birth as the tone of muscles throughout the body are altered according to whether the head is tilted forwards or backwards. The development of head control over the coming months will gradually inhibit this response as the child matures and the headrighting reflexes develop. It should be inhibited by three and a half years of age. If it remains in an older child, it can be associated with:


- Lack of gravitational security due to lack of head control

- Postural problems, specifically hypertonus (stiff muscle tone) or hypotonus (weak muscle tone)

- Absence of crawling on hands and knees as a baby

- Poor balance

- Motion sickness

- Orientation and spatial difficulties

- Difficulty judging space, distance, depth and velocity

- Oculo-motor problems – figure-ground effect, affecting reading

- Visual-perceptual problems – affecting reading and writing

- Dislike of sport and PE


Other associated long term effects and indications can be


TLR Forwards

- Weak muscle tone

- Standing may be very tiring and posture will adjust to compensate (stoop)

- Fear of heights

- Holding arms up is very tiring

- Poor sequencing skills

- Poor awareness of time


TLR Backwards


- Tendency to walk on the toes 

- Poor coordination

- Stiff, jerky movements

- Poor sequencing skills

- Poor organisational skills



from "Reflexes, Learning and Behaviour: A Window into the Child's Mind"  by Sally Goddard (2005) Fern Ridge Press, Eugene

Head forwards - arms and legs bend
Head backwards - on tiptoes
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