Are reflexes good or bad? Well in short...both! Neurological development can be very complex, so let me break it down for you. Let’s start from the beginning...let's go back...and I mean waaay back to before you were born.
In The Womb- Primitive Reflexes are Good
Yes, that’s right! Primitive reflexes and the vestibular system develop in utero. An example of this would be that the vestibular system is a part of what tells the baby to move into a head down position to get ready for the big day...birth!
Birth- Primitive Reflexes are Good
When birth day finally arrives, during a routine vaginal birth, the baby’s system is getting primed to be able to function outside of the womb. This means all those contractions are helping to stimulate the brain and body. The typically developing baby then uses his/her reflexes to help in key moments of birth. That is right! Baby’s are a key participant in their own birth!
When the baby is finally welcomed to the world, reflexes are assessed to ensure that they are present and working correctly. If there were complications with the birth, or the birth was too fast, or too long, reflexes may not be very strong, or some of them might not be present at all.
The First Year of Life-Primitive Reflexes are Good
In a typically developing baby, all the primitive reflexes should be present and functioning at the time of the birth. The way the brain naturally integrates reflexes is as one reflex is starting to “go away” or get weaker, another more mature reflex is getting stronger. By the first year of life all the primitive reflexes should be integrated and postural (adult reflexes remaining for life) should begin to take their place.
Ages 1+yrs. & Beyond- Primitive Reflexes are “Bad”
Once a child reaches the one year mark (give or take), primitive reflexes should be integrated and some postural reflexes have already developed, while others can take up to 3 ½ years to develop. If the primitive reflexes are still present to a certain degree, this is when the “domino effect” can begin to occur. It can be like a layering effect of other body systems impacted.
Age 3 ½ yrs. & Beyond- Postural Reflexes are Good
By the age of 3 ½ years, all of the postural reflexes (adult reflexes) should be in place and fully functioning. These allow the brain and body to make subconscious postural adjustments with ease and no effort. These are necessary for body awareness in space, and for learning and overall development.
Age 3 ½ yrs. & Beyond- Underdeveloped or Absent Postural Reflexes are “Bad”
If residual primitive reflexes remain, this could impact the way the postural reflexes develop. Some might be underdeveloped, leaving “gaps” in the way they function. Other postural reflexes may have not had the chance to develop at all, in which case the child would show impacts in everyday life.
If you are concerned about your child, please contact us for more information.
By: Emily Reynolds, MSOTR, INPP Certified