This page is intended to help provide further understanding as to why physical development of the senses are vital to having the resources to be ‘ready and able’ to learn for life. You may recognise many signs from scrolling down the grey box on the right hand side of this page. These symptoms are due to retained reflexes. The reflexes are not addressed in education unfortunately, and yet, they set up the neural foundations to our physical, emotional, social, behavioural, cognitive and academic development and the efficient linking up of the brain in every one of us.
Trying to teach children who are struggling with learning before they have each of these areas developed first, will only create more stress to an already immature and underdeveloped neurological system. Starting to teach from a ‘top down’ approach can be difficult, time consuming, frustrating and costly. First, we must develop the physical foundations, making sure the brain and senses are sufficiently developed and connected for the sensory information to reach areas of the brain to be processed. We must make sure every child has the resources in-place to be able to learn, so a ‘bottom up’ approach is the most efficient and effective way forward for EVERY child. This is essential if teaching and learning are going to be an easier, enjoyable, successful AND a cost effective process.
I would like to bring awareness to the Education system, Professionals assessing for and dealing with Learning challenges and Child development and also Parents that learning and developmental challenges can be significantly improved using simple developmental movements with profound and life-long results.
If teachers were to screen and assess the physical side of learning in children first, and this is easy to do, and where I can help, they will immediately know the children who are going to struggle with learning and can then concentrate on developing their weaker senses, using simple developmental movements. Teachers will then be able to teach these children with less effort, less valuable time lost and more enjoyment in the classroom for both teacher and student. This is the quickest, most effective, efficient and money saving way to achieve top results and I will explain why on this page.
Below is an example of a massive change in handwriting before and after working with the Hand reflexes. Just 10 minutes a day of fun developmental movements for 4 weeks.
Trying to teach a child who is struggling to learn with practice, and lots more practice, can sometimes create more stress and frustration if he/she is not developmentally ready and the areas of the brain are not linked up and accessible for the task. It will take more time, huge amounts of effort and cost more to supply extra help. Develop the senses and brain first will save so much time, cost and stress. Learning the developmental movements and applying them in the classroom or gym daily is the best and most affordable way to improve any learning challenge with quick and permanent results.
If you are looking for an affordable course to understand how retained reflexes can cause learning challenges, to recognise the symptoms seen in most classroom and then how you can make profound improvements using simple movements then the Rhythmic Movement Training programme course will provide this. The information will fill an important missing gap in education. The techniques you will learn will add to your knowledge and skills to be able to reach the most challenging learners, I guarantee.
I also offer schools The Movement Programme. This programme is run 5 days of the week for 12 weeks where movements are given to children, and teachers, to follow as they are watching the screen. This will provide profound results in Literacy skills and end of year grades for any school. Schools buy an affordable subscription and the programme can be viewed via the internet daily. Please click on this link https://youtu.be/NZCdBC_GYHU to learn more, and if you are interested, please contact me to arrange your subscription to the 12 week programme. Again, I guarantee excellent results.
Why do learning challenges occur?
Children today don’t get the same amount of stimulation from movement, time to play outdoors in parks, on swings and roundabouts, time exploring, playing with others, etc, as they used to. Life has become more sedentary and with electrical equipment being given at a too earlier age, children don’t move around so much. Movement is absolutely necessary for neurological and sensory-motor development during the Early Years. There would be less learning challenges if this vital time was understood and a baby / infant helped and allowed to make the movement it needs. Hinder it or speed it up will affect development. Parents would benefit enormously if they understood this important time of their baby / infants growth, and is the area I give talks about.
Children develop at different times according to specific factors in their early formative years. Any stress to mother and fetus during pregnancy, premature birth, problems with the birthing process, ill health in the early weeks and months after birth, didn’t get ‘tummy time’, weren’t able to move around freely on the floor as a baby and toddler, didn’t crawl on hands and knees but were bottom shufflers, lacked various sensory experiences, poor nutrition, a stressful environment. All these factors and many more will affect the development of the reflexes and sufficient linking up of the brain.
Not every child is developmentally ready for certain tasks in learning and trying to teach a child who is not physically ready will cause more stress to a system that is already weak and not able to cope. Testing a child for their physical development and whether the reflexes have integrated would be so much more beneficial then testing their academic ability, especially at an early age. Any retained reflexes will explain why a child, or adult, struggles academically and/or in life generally.
The stimulation and development of all the senses helps to create the neural linking up of the brain. The primitive and postural reflexes are responsible for this process to take place efficiently. If the reflexes don’t develop and integrate, areas of the brain will remain weak and immature and the information through the senses may not reach specific areas for processing and then being able to respond appropriately.
If you are interested in learning more about this, I offer various training courses and Teacher training days.
The importance of Early Years development
The primitive reflexes that every one of us are born with is an area that is not understood enough or being addressed sufficiently in education or by professionals and yet is vital to every child’s development to be physically ready for learning and have the coping skills for all tasks in life.
Up to around 4 years old, but especially the first 12 months, are the most important time for laying down the foundations of neural development and for starting the process of linking up all areas of the brain. The reflexes role is to help achieve this to a sufficient level so that a child is physically ready for learning. If the baby and infant does not get enough stimulation from parents, environment and good nutrition this process can be hindered, leaving the neural connections, brain and senses immature. Symptoms can be clearly seen in children and adults when you know what to look for and is the area I specialise in.
If children are struggling and falling behind in areas of learning, not reaching attainment levels, failing in education or being excluded, look for retained reflexes and look back for any missed stages in their Early Developmental Years and you will find many answers as to why they are not reaching expected milestones in learning and development.
Older children and adults can have retained reflexes too, but they may have found ways of compensating for their difficulties. This means they have found a way to work around their difficulties but have to work much harder and put more effort and time into achieving. Some children are not developed enough and cannot even achieve this. Sometimes the compensations are no longer strong enough to support them as the pressure to perform and succeed becomes too much as they pass through the levels of education and then get diagnosed with dyslexia or other learning challenged ‘labels’ when they are at GCSE, A level or at university, in the workplace, on the sports field or in the performing arts. By assessing for any retained reflexes and clearing those first, the ability to learn will improve considerably and be life changing for many.
Why are the reflexes so important?
The reflexes are responsible for developing the visual, auditory, motor, tactile, vestibular and proprioceptor senses. These senses are vital to learning and everything we do in life. As the reflexes emerge, develop and integrate, the neural linking up of the brain takes place. Any retained reflexes much past 4 years old can cause the brain and senses to remain immature and weak when we need to access them for particular tasks in education, business, in sport and the performing arts.
Why are the senses so important?
As the senses develop and integrate they make strong neural connections and help link up areas of the brain. The following senses are important to be developed sufficiently so the information can reach areas of the brain to be processed. Retained reflexes affect this process but can be developed at any time of life
Visual sense – We need our eyes to work together to take in information equally and to have the information to be processed in each occipital lobe at the back of the brain. The eyes need to be able to track smoothly and easily across the midline for reading and writing. We need both our eyes working at the same time for spatial awareness and for balance. Our eyes need to be able to change distance from near to far and far to near instantly for copying from the whiteboard, catching a ball easily and in sport, etc. We need full working vision for eye-hand, eye-foot co-ordination in many areas of our lives. Is the information through each eye able to cross over the Corpus callosum sufficiently to get to the visual areas to be processed? Letter / number reversals, big writing or writing with big gaps between words, writing slopes up or down the page are all signs that visual processing is not taking place.
Auditory sense – We need both ears working together for listening and processing sounds and language in each temporal lobe, and for memory. The information must be able to pass across the Corpus callosum to reach each hemisphere. If not, listening, remembering and processing instructions will be poor and slow. We need the vestibular system in the inner ear to help us remain upright and balance against gravity. Ear dominance can make a big difference to learning and where to best sit a child sit in a classroom to get the most from listening to the teacher. Dyslexic people are usually left ear dominant which makes a difference to how and what they hear first and how it is processed in the brain.
Motor sense – We need to develop and refine gross and fine movement skills for holding and working with tools, feeding, proper pen grip for handwriting, ball games, sport and playing musical instruments. We need to be able to move at the speed and in the direction we want automatically without having to plan every movement. Poor co-ordination and tiring quickly can be the result of poor motor skills. Movement gives huge amounts of stimulation to the brain which is why it is important for children to move regularly to keep their mind and body’s alert when learning. Motor development is also essential for the emotional area of the brain to develop properly and playing is vital to this process.
Tactile sense – A baby first learns through this sense by handling and bringing objects to its mouth. We need our tactile sense to tell us what we are touching, whether it is safe or dangerous (hot, sharp, texture etc). Touch lets us know of pain and to let go or pleasure and to enjoy. It stimulates memory. People with tactile issues do not like physical sport or physical contact. Touch is also essential for good emotional development.
Vestibular sense – This area is vital to our sense of balance. The vestibular system is important to help build muscle tone to support our posture to remain in an upright position against gravity. We need this sense developed sufficiently for seeing and listening for reading, writing, auditory processing and language development.
Proprioception sense – The proprioceptors are in every muscle in the body. They give enormous amounts of neural feedback to the brain about where our body, and parts of our body, are in space and what the body is doing. We need them for every movement and to help build muscle tone. When this sense gets stimulation, areas of the brain gets stimulated. Much of this development takes place while in the womb and while a baby is on the floor where there is the most body surface contact. This is one of the reasons why we must not hurry the process of encouraging a baby to speed through, or miss, this important time by not allowing them time on the floor to be able to move freely.
To understand what proprioceptors do, try this exercise – Stand on one foot and close your eyes. You will feel lots of movement in your ankle. This is because the proprioceptors are working very hard to give information to the brain, and especially the vestibular system, and the brain to feedback to the proprioceptors in the ankle to help keep you upright and balance. If you cannot balance, you may have an undeveloped vestibular system. Now open your eyes and see how this changes your ability to balance and shows you how important vision is to the vestibular system.
All these senses need to develop sufficiently before we go into the learning system. If you try to teach a child who is not developmentally ready for a specific task i.e reading, writing, be able to sit still, comprehend, stay focused, listen, learn and remember, sit up at their desk properly, process information and lots more expectations, it will cause more stress and frustration to the child’s system that is already weak, and the teaching moment will be lost.
The Corpus Callosum and poor sensory processing
The Corpus callosum (CC) is a bunch of about 250 million nerve fibres that connect the two hemispheres of the brain. It is vital this area of the brain is fully developed and myelinated so that information from the senses can cross over from each side of the body to reach the areas of the brain for the information to be fully processed. If the Corpus callosum is un-developed then this processing may be very slow or non-existent as it acts as a ‘barrier’ rather than a ‘bridge’. This can result in poor communication and processing skills between the two sides of the body affecting visual, auditory, balance, co-ordination, movement, speech, thinking and processing time.
The most important time to help the development and myelination of the CC is when a baby commando crawls and then crawls on hands and knees. This time is very important to encourage the baby to crawl until it is ready to get up on to two feet by itself, without help. Bum shufflers or babies that don’t move much miss this stage and can affect development of the CC. The Corpus callosum continues to develop until about 12 years old and then remains at that level thereafter.
The functioning of the Corpus callosum can be tested easily and improved at any age and for any ability. This can be overlooked, or not understood sufficiently, by many educators.
Why is movement important to brain development?
Movement is key to brain and sensory development. Movement is ‘food’ to the brain and is vital for the development of the Central Nervous System. Movement is all we can do when in utero, during the birthing process and after birth. To begin with the movements are jerky, un-coordinated, fumbling and involuntary. Certain areas of the brain, especially the Cerebellum, need to develop to help make movements smooth, coordinated, rhythmical, controlled, exact and eventually automatic so we do not need to be constantly thinking about ‘how’ we are going to move i.e walking, running, chewing etc.
During the second 6 months after birth, before we learn how to get up onto two feet and walk, the baby needs to be able to learn to move freely on the floor. As it does, the Cerebellum starts its development to refine movements, including eye tracking and making the initial pathways through to the speech centres and the frontal lobes where self-control and comprehension skills are managed. Missing or hindering this stage can be the cause of many motor problems, late speech development and the first linking up of the frontal lobes (the CEO of the brain). Some of the primitive reflexes may remain active at this level of development and hinder further higher levels of physical, emotional and academic development.
Integrating the Cerebellum can make profound improvements to many tasks. This can be achieved at any time using the Rhythmic Movement Training programme. The best way is to achieve this is to get back down on the floor where the cerebellum first starts to develop and learn to make, or remake, these specific movements that cannot be achieved as easily when we are upright and on our feet. We don’t get the right stimulation in the way the mind and body needs..
To learn more about the areas of the brain and development, please visit my ‘Rhythmic Movement’ page and scroll down the page to the second group of boxes.
Can the reflexes be helped after the Early Years?
Yes absolutely. It does not matter how old you are, what ability you have or what you do, integrating the reflexes can be achieved and make amazing changes to people’s abilities and skills. It is important to understand how the brain and senses develop during the Early Years and how we can help the baby, not hinder, the developmental process. Any stress or difficulties from in utero and up to around 4 years old can affect the development and integration of the reflexes which can hinder the brain from developing and linking up properly.
What are the challenges from retained reflexes?
Having retained reflexes can be the cause of many delays in development. Signs can be clearly seen in nurseries, pre-schools, schools, universities, higher education, the workplace, in sport and the performing arts
Physical – Poor muscle tone resulting in not being able to hold the head up when sitting for long or breathe properly because of slouching. Cannot sit up by yourself or straight at a desk. Too much muscle tension resulting in pain and possible injury to certain muscles. Lack energy and tires easily. Poor coordination between upper and lower body. Poor coordination skills generally. Doesn’t like physical sports or moving about much.
Emotional – Not being able to manage or control feelings / emotions. Not able to express themselves. Not feeling ‘safe and secure’ to be able to venture out into the environment and world around you. Not feeling ‘connected’ with people or in the world. Lack of ‘bonding and attachment’ through neglect or abandonment at an early age. Lack motivation, self confidence and low self-esteem.
Social – Lacks social skills, difficulty in learning how to play and mix with others and be able to make friends and understand others feelings. Not being able to ‘read’ people. lack of eye contact. Avoids social functions, poor organisation. Play is essential to emotional and social development for everyone.
Behavioural – ADHD / ADD. Not being able to manage sudden outbursts. Not being able to sit still for long. Challenges with attention and focus. Hyperactivity. Lack alertness/ADD. Always interrupting inappropriately. Does not understand ‘wait’. Impulsive. Over-reacts.
Cognitive – Not being able to take in and process information, remember, give the most appropriate response to any situation and achieve success in learning. Lack comprehension skills being able to think clearly, reason, rationalise in difficult situations or problem solve. Academic skills can be difficult to access.
Mental health – Stress / trauma / brain injury / genetics / lack of development during the Early Years can result in causing mental health issues. The developmental movements a baby needs to learn to make beginning in utero and up to 4 helps create the neural foundations and the initial linking up throughout the brain, especially to the Prefrontal cortex where the ‘Executive’ functions and control of responses take place. A deficiency during this vital stage of neural growth can present a problem for life. The stronger the connections from the Limbic system, the emotional area, through the neo-cortex, the ‘thinking area’, to the frontal lobes, the control area, the better a person can manage their thoughts, feelings and responses to situations in life. New and stronger connections can always be made using developmental rhythmic movements and through reflex integration.
What can be done to help Early Years development?
- Understand the stages of how a baby develops from being totally dependent to becoming independent.
- Understand how and why movement is vital to sensory development in every one of us
- Understand how the different stages of the brain develop during the Early Years
- Why do learning challenges occur? Know the signs and symptoms
- How do the senses develop between in utero and 4 years old?
- What can affect the reflexes from playing their role in Early Years development?
- What is the result of retained reflexes much past 4 years old toward learning and life?
- Understand the importance and value of movement toward brain and sensory development
- Understand what the senses are and how we can help them develop efficiently
- Understand the role of each primitive and postural reflex
- Why play is so important to emotional / social development, memory and motor skills
- Attend the 8 day (4 x 2 days) Rhythmic Movement Training course to learn the simple techniques to integrate all the reflexes in the most natural way possible.
I offer various unique training courses. If you would like a course run near you, please contact me to for details and to make arrangements.
I offer talks to groups, associations and anyone interested to learn about the reflexes and what can be done to help a child’s natural development rather than hinder it. Please contact me if this interests you.