“Reflexes and The Developing Mind”–Part Two

This is Part Two of the post covering Chapter 4 in “The Well-Balanced Child” by Sally Goddard Blythe.  You can find the first part of this post here: http://www.chattnaturecenter.org/hours-admission-attire-directions.html

We are going to take a quick peek at the last four reflexes in this chapter.

Rooting and Sucking Reflexes – The first region to develop in the brain in utero is the part that will represent the mouth and tongue in the sensory and motor areas.  The mouth is the first practice area for motor and sensory experiences.  “Sucking and swallowing movements help to develop not only the muscles of the lips and the tongue, but also the pharynx, the larynx, and breathing through the nose, all of which will be employed in vocalization and speech some months later.”  Sucking and eye blinking are also related, especially in premature infants.  If these reflexes are retained, one can see hypersensitivity in the oral region, continued need for oral stimulation, difficulty chewing solid food due to tongue remaining too forward in the mouth, and difficulties with speech and articulation.

The  Palmar and Plantar Reflexes – these reflexes related to a grasping movement by the hands or feet, and can be used to help stimulate latching on at the breast in reluctant nursers.   A nice discussion on pages 58-59 talks about how an infant must learn to open up the grasp and let go of an object.  From page 59:  “Children who have undergone neurological assessment at the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, who have had a history of speech difficulties but no hearing problems, have all demonstrated difficulty with thumb and finger opposition, coupled with hypersensitivity to gentle stimulation to the palm of the hand.  Many also manifest difficulty in separating hand and mouth movements.”  So, effects of a retained palmar reflex include difficulty with writing grip, speech and articulation, and a retained plantar reflex can be tied to a tendency to toe walk or having an insecure base to try to stand from.

Babinski Reflex – results in the extension of the toes (plantar reflex is the opposite).  You can often see this reflex at work when an infant commando crawls on the belly before creeping on hands and knees as they will embed their toes in the ground and push with their feet.    Usually a retained Babinski reflex past the age of two seems to indicate pathology of parts of the brain (see page 61 for further explanation).

The Spinal Galant Reflex – this is essentially when the skin on either side of the spine in the lumbar region causes flexion (bending) of the hip on one side and arching of the remainder of the body away from the stimulus.  If this is retained, it can lead to problems in sitting still, concentration, and it may be loosely tied to bedwetting or soiling.

Postural reactions gradually take over the function of some of these primitive reflexes within the first three and a half years of life.  “There is increasing evidence to suggest that under-developed postural reflexes can, at a later stage of life, have an effect on advanced learning and social adaptability, both of which require flexibility of thinking and response.”

All I can say here in this brief space is that our lack of heavy work, play, and physical movement in the educational system of the United States is causing our children to have increased problems in both academics and in social skills. I feel this strongly, and will continue to rail about this in my space.  The human body is meant to move; that is the foundation of learning for small children and we seem to be forgetting this in our country. 

I can’t wait to get to Chapter Five. I think you all will find it very interesting, especially those of you who have children with hearing or speech challenges.

Many blessings,

2 thoughts on ““Reflexes and The Developing Mind”–Part Two

  1. I am not reading this book and in fact have not even purchased it, but I am so fascinated by the topic. It seems like very heavy reading and right now I just can’t fit it in my schedule mentally or otherwise. Maybe some day I will, but for now I am enjoying the posts. So, I hope you don’t mind if I have a question…. does the book cover ways that will help correct these situations? My daughter is 7 and she is currently in PT and OT for what I would call mild gross and fine motor skill delays. More gross motor issues than fine. For example, she can’t skip rope or do jumping jacks well. I have other books like Smart Moves and Growing and In Sync Child that have suggested movement exercises. I was just wondering what the goal of this book is. Does it also offer suggestions for improving these areas?

    • Stephanie,
      There are some and we will get to those in a bit. I would suggest to you the free resource movementforchildhood.com as another resource, and you can wait for the chapter reviews to see if this book would be helpful to you or your daughter as well.
      If you are working with PT and OT, I am sure they are taking the things that are hard and breaking them down, working on the strength of the trunk and balance. I think the movementforchildhood website could be very helpful, and also scheduling active things as a family – hiking, bike riding, having wheelbarrow races and funny little games. If you don’t have the book “Joyful Movement” by Christopherus Homeschool Resources, that book may also be helpful to you.

      Many, many blessings, I will be thinking of you all

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