Even though the symptoms of these reflexes don’t seem like a big deal, don’t forget that the brain develops in LAYERS. Retained primitive reflexes do cause symptoms on their own, but they also disrupt all of the following layers of brain development, like sensory, motor, visual, cognitive, and executive functions!
After the brain stem, our brain splits up into 2 hemispheres.
When primitive reflexes aren’t suppressed, it inhibits development in sensorimotor, cognition, and executive function with a larger weakness one one hemisphere, depending on epigenetic stuff (like we talked about earlier)
When there are weaknesses in the left hemisphere, we see struggles with learning, and often end up with diagnoses like dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, and other learning disabilities.
With weaknesses in the right hemisphere, we see things like focus, social, emotional, and behavioral problems, which often lead to a diagnoses of something like ADHD, Anxiety, ODD, Asperger’s, Autism, etc.
But don’t get too caught up on those things! So often these issues are misdiagnosed, or kids are struggling with things like visual function which can often look like dyslexia.
That’s why we always do tests and have you consult with a director before deciding which hemisphere to work on.
And check out the responsibilities of each hemisphere!
Sensory & Motor Function
Sensory and Motor function are split into two hemispheres. These are what develop directly after the brain stem/primitive reflexes. There’s pretty much a 100% chance that, if you or your child has retained primitive reflexes, there are at least some issues with sensory/motor function too, because of the layers concept that we talked about earlier. Here’s a quick breakdown of a few of the sensory and motor functions we target and what they mean for your/your child’s life!
Fine motor skills
Fine motor skill is the ability to manipulate small muscles in the body, such as the fingers, toes, and tongue. When fine motor skills are immature, tasks like handwriting, coloring in the lines, and shoe-tying are affected and can be very difficult.
Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor skill is the ability to coordinate and create movement in the large muscle groups, such as the core, glutes, and legs. Walking, jumping, bending, and running are gross motor skills. When these are difficult to perform, many other functions can be reduced, such as balance, fine motor, and proprioception, as well as basic skills like walking, running, and sports.
Crossing midline is a basic skill that leads to highly advanced brain functions. If the body has a difficult time crossing midline consistently, then thoughts and feelings will also be limited in their ability to be regulated across the midline. For example, feelings of anger are generated by the right brain and should be tempered by feelings of sadness from the right brain. If this is not happening, people tend to experience primarily left brain emotions such as anger and happiness.
Proprioception!! My favorite thing to talk about!
Your brain naturally sends a signal to your body and requests that your body send it back. This process is how your brain knows where your body is in space. When the signal from your body doesn’t come back to your brain correctly and at the same speed from different body parts, it causes some weird sensations and behaviors. One of the main behaviors is fidgety behavior. When you move a foot, leg, or hand, the nerves in that body part are sending a signal to the brain about where the part is. This mimics proprioception and is a coping mechanism. Another symptom of low proprioception is the inability to read facial expressions. When you can’t feel your own face, other people’s faces lose their communication effectiveness.
Synchronization is the glue that holds all brain function together. Without synchronization, maturity of the brain cannot happen. But even if individual brain regions could mature on their own, they would still need to communicate with other regions at the same speed and same time in order to use their maturity to create appropriate thoughts, feelings, movements, and behaviors. It is imperative that we teach the brain to coordinate and time its communication.
Your brain controls everything in your body, especially your eyes. In fact, your eyes grow out of your brain directly. But the visual cortex is in back! That means that your visual system is one of the most important and most SENSITIVE areas of your brain. If slow and fast eye movement aren’t developed correctly, many things can be affected, like reading, writing, and catching a ball.
The ability to read is highly dependent on your eyes ability to move with a specific rhythm. When that rhythm is immature, not only reading, but many other things can be affected, like attention, focus, and the ability to keep from being distracted.
The vestibulo-ocular reflex is necessary for keeping the eyes separate from head movement. Imagine driving down the road and as your eyes move to one side to check for traffic at an intersection, your head moves with your eyes. You would get tired pretty quickly and would also miss things that were happening around you because your whole head is connected to the movement of your eyes. So many things can be affected by VOR, including clumsiness and distractibility.
Imagine sitting in class and having to look up at the smartboard and back at your notes. Over and over again. That’s possible because your eyes can readjust quickly each time you switch. If that is more difficult than it should be, you simply might give up or get frustrated. This can cause symptoms like focus problems and difficulty maintaining long-term attention.
Your vestibular system is the part of your brain that helps you have a good relationship with gravity. It helps you stay upright, walk correctly, and have spatial awareness, among other things. If this system is immature, lots of symptoms can develop.
If you can’t process what you hear in each ear, the most common problem is frustration. You ever been in a crowded room and just can’t seem to hear what is being said by the person right in front of you? That’s part of auditory processing. When it gets really out of balance, symptoms can start to arise, such as auditory sensitivity or distractibility.
Passive Sensory Stimulation
Everyone knows about the 5 senses. Not everyone knows that if you stimulate 4 of them, not including taste, all at the same time, it makes the brain work really hard. That hard work, when directed purposely at the weaker hemisphere, causes the brain to mature rapidly.
The best way to describe temporal summation is to say that if we stimulate multiple regions of the brain at the exact same time, those regions must necessarily start to communicate with each other. If you stimulate specific regions in the same hemisphere, not only must they communicate with each other and the body, but they must also communicate with the corresponding networks in the other hemisphere. When we achieve this over and over with increasing levels of difficulty or challenge, the brain begins to mature in ways that can unlock massive potential.