Gait & Primitive Reflex Training

Primitive Inhibitory Reflexes

Primitive Inhibitory Reflexes are the developmental milestones your child should be reaching as their brain, and body grow. As our brains mature, the primitive reflexes are inhibited (dampened) by more complex motor pathways from the brain, cerebellum and brainstem.

If these primitive reflexes remain active, weakness or immaturity occurs within the nervous system. Prolonged primitive reflexes prevent the development of succeeding postural reflexes. Depending on the degree of abnormal reflex activity, poor organization of nerve fibers can affect gross muscle and fine motor control, balance, coordination, sensory, emotion, speech articulation, swallowing, cognition and more.

Rooting Reflex

This primitive reflex is necessary for the development of swallowing. It is needed for the coordination between respiration and oral function and development of speech articulation; all of which are essential preparations for babbling and speech development. If the tongue remains too far forward, a child will develop poor articulation, jaw deviation (temporal mandibular dysfunction), prolonged thumb sucking, messy eating, dribbling, slurring of speech, etc.

4 year old receiving PONS stimulation for drooling, slurred speech and swallowing.

Plantar Reflex

If the Plantar Reflex remains active after the first year of life, foot positioning will be more difficult resulting in problems with balance, posture, gait, and walking. The Plantar Reflex is usually present in children who toe walk.

Babkin Reflex

This reflex helps the baby to stimulate the breast causing breast milk to flow while breastfeeding. When infants suck, there is not only involuntary movement of their hands, but many times their toes and feet curl.

When a Babkin Reflex is not integrated you’ll notice when a child writes or does other fine motor work, there will be involuntary movements of the mouth and tongue. Symptoms include low hand muscle tone, poor fine motor skills, speech and articulation challenges and retention of long-term sucking.

Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex/Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (head righting reflex)

This reflex is necessary for a baby to transition from lying on the floor to crawling or walking. A child may have difficulty maintaining certain postural positions if this reflex is not integrated. It is also very important for training vision, especially near and far visual focus. Symptoms include problems crawling, poor head control and strength, attention and focus difficulty (squirming or fidgeting), vision difficulty (depth perception) etc.

4 year old child with CP receiving tDCS which fires the vestibulospinal pathways that relay signals via the spinal cord to the extensor muscles. This decreases spasticity, increases range of motion, and improves postural stability/truncal ataxia.

Cerebellum

The cerebellum is a part of the brain responsible for balance and also has a clear role in motor learning. The cerebellum compensates for different loads and muscle lengths, improves movement accuracy and smoothness, and an intact cerebellum is a ‘prerequisite’ for optimal ocular motor function. The cerebellum ‘fine-tunes’, eye movements so they work together to maintain images clearly, and the vestibular system sends information to the cerebellum to coordinate incoming sensory information.