The ATNR (Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex) emerges in a typically developing fetus around 18 weeks in early gestation. That’s right! This reflex is present in utero, and typically develops around the time the mother begins to feel her baby kick and move around!
The ATNR gets stronger later in the pregnancy. It helps the baby to change positions and use muscles in both the upper and lower body on each side of the body. It is thought that a typically developing baby uses the ATNR to help maneuver the shoulders to get into position for birth.
The ATNR along with other primitive reflexes develop in early gestation. They are being strengthened during a typical vaginal delivery, and are helping to prime the nervous system to keep this baby alive once outside of the womb. When deliveries go wrong, or there are complications, this can cause interruptions in the process in which the reflexes should develop and integrate and cause neurodevelopmental delay. According to the book, "Attention, Balance and Coordination" by Sally Goddard Blythe, The ATNR is thought to help the newborn maintain a clear airway by triggering the head to turn to either side. How amazing is that?
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About the Author:
Emily Reynolds, MSOTR is the founder of ReSprout Therapy. She is a pediatric Occupational Therapist who specializes in neurodevelopment and reflex integration.
Emily loves working with parents and kids to find the source of the problem and create lasting changes that impact daily lives and the long-term future of the child.