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Reflex Integration

What is Reflex Integration?

Reflex integration uses Neurodevelopmental Movements and other methods to develop the body’s reflexes for optimal function. Reflexes are a set of automatic movements that every person is designed with from within the womb. From infancy, reflexes are essential to ensure proper development of the brain, nervous system, and sensory systems.

Certain reflexes are meant to stay with us throughout our entire lives. Others are designed to become dormant once their functions get fulfilled.

Here are 3 of the better-known reflexes that babies are born with:

The Moro reflex:
When an infant senses that it is falling, it reacts instinctively by spreading out the arms, then folding them.

The Rooting reflex:
When a new-born baby's cheek gets stroked, it turns to that side and opens its mouth, this reflex assists with breastfeeding mothers.

The Diving reflex:
Most (but not all) infants up to six months old, when submerged, will instinctively block off their airway, hold their breath, resulting in their heart rate slowing down.

These infant reflexes disappear as the child develops over time. In older children as well as adults, the persistence or re-emergence of infant reflexes beyond the appropriate developmental age is an indicator of brain disease or some form of damage.

There are many causes why the reflex system might not develop properly. When reflex movements are underdeveloped or incomplete by the conclusion of early childhood, it might cause mild to severe challenges in the following areas; learning, development, emotional/behavioural.

Kind of movements used for Reflex Integration?

The movements used have been based on reflex patterns and rhythmic movements that babies make naturally from within the womb. Some movements involve light touch. With younger children, many of these actions are completed playfully.

In infancy, reflexes integrate through repeated use. We use similar reflex patterns for integration. Touch supplies the brain with extra feedback and helps to integrate the reflexes more quickly. These natural movement patterns are enhanced through light touch.
While we are all familiar with the idea that crawling in infancy is essential for future learning, there are many other movement patterns taking place in the womb that are important for future learning, emotional and social skills. These natural movements deeply nourish the brain.

The role of these simple to more complex automatic motor reflexes is in establishing a solid developmental foundation, and how reflexes function to automatically regulate each of our bodies under normal conditions in reaction to normal stress, or traumatic circumstances, is to help comprehend the difference between automatic motor reflexes and learned motor reflexes.

Although most people in the Allied Health Care community are familiar with primary motor reflex patterns, they are generally viewed as developmental milestones. While working with a patient, if primary motor reflex patterns are found active beyond the expected or appropriate developmental period, this pattern is viewed as an indication that an underlying developmental or neurological issues may be present.

It is important to recognize that reflexes do not function in complete isolation of one another. Primary motor reflex patterns play a supporting role in the maturation of more complex motor reflex schemes such as rolling over, sitting up, crawling. When a primary reflex pattern fully matures during the appropriate developmental period, it integrates to serve this supporting role. A defective pattern ensues either because it has not matured and integrated, or because it has re-surfaced at some point after integration. Therefore, a dysfunctional primary reflex pattern is not merely an indicator of potential neurological dysfunction but helps to identify where underlying neuro-sensorimotor dysfunction exists in the body.

While the comprehensive importance of primary motor reflex patterns and the general concept of primitive reflex integration may seem new, they are not.

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