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    Integrating Primitive Reflexes

    A reflex is an automatic movement that assists in development, growth and survival (i.e. blinking reflex). Many reflexes are active throughout our lives Other reflexes, called primitive reflexes surface in the womb and infancy and are designed to become inactive after the toddler stage. Ideally, primitive reflexes merge into more sophisticated movement, and become integrated..

    From very early on in the womb, the primitive reflex movements help develop the brain. The repetitive and automatic movements are necessary for the development of a child’s balance, mobility, vision, hearing, speaking, learning, communication, relationships and emotional well-being.

    Reflexes originate in the brain stem. When reflexes remain active, the brain stem is constantly stimulated. This causes stress to a child and he is unable to easily access his prefrontal cortex, where a person normally processes and analyzes information. Unintegrated reflexes trigger the “fight or flight” response even when there is no logical reason for the stress, causing stressed behaviors to become a child’s pattern of responding instead of controlling his impulse.

    When reflexes are active, body parts cannot easily move independently. This can lead to difficulties in coordination, reading and writing, language and speech delays, disorganization, fidgeting and poor concentration.

    Active reflexes cause low muscle tone, muscle weakness, chronic body aches, poor endurance, and fatigue. Skills that should be automatic (i.e. reading and writing) are being done with continuous conscious effort causing fatigue to our body.

    Primitive Reflexes are essential for development of head control, muscle tone, sensory integration and development. These primitive reflexes surface in the womb and in infancy and become integrated as the movements do their job and movements become more practiced and controlled.

    When a baby is given the opportunity to develop freely and naturally, the primitive reflexes will integrate and no longer be active. When the primitive reflexes remain active, many difficulties emerge.

    Incomplete integration of primitive reflexes may be a contributing cause of ADD/ ADHD, autism, learning challenges, developmental delay, sensory integration disorders, vision and hearing challenges, and behavior challenges.

    Occupational Therapy for a child with unintegrated reflexes is imperative for his development. The way an Occupational Therapist will integrate these reflexes is by doing exercises that incorporate the movement of the reflex. By doing these movements repetitively the reflex becomes an automatic movement, which will help develop the brain and assist in all the difficult challenges that emerged.


    Robin (Rivky) Akselrud, MS, OTR/L is a licensed occupational therapist. David (Yakov) Ettinger, PT, DPT, GCS is a Doctor of Physical Theray and is a Board Certified Geriatric Specialist. Their state-of-the-art outpatient treatment facilty for adult and pediatric rehabilitation, Forward Physical and Occupational Therapy is located at 3815 13th avenue. Please contact us at (718) 677-6777 to schedule an appointment so we can help YOU move FORWARD!

    Most major insurances accepted.

    Occupational Therapy is NOW available in Flatbush! Come and see our new clinic at 2918 Avenue M(between east 29th street and Nostrand Avenue)