By Dr Melodie de Jager
The unfolding blueprint of each child is an active process propelled by an unseen driving force called a reflex system. The primitive reflex system uses simple movements to neurologically wire the brain, organs, senses and muscles together to communicate effectively with each other. This basic wiring occurs between conception and 14 months of age.
Does it mean – if a hiccup occurred 1) delayed reaching of milestones or 2) scrambled the sequence of milestones, that it may impact on a child’s emotional, social and intellectual development? The answer is yes!
Does it mean – if a baby moves unhampered in different ways, that it is building a firm foundation in preparation for academic and life skills? The answer is yes!
Does it mean – if a baby’s movement is hampered because it is predominantly in a reclining chair / pram, confined to limited space, or on the back that it may impact on physical development? The answer is yes!
A child older than six who finds it difficult to sit still and concentrate for 10 minutes (and longer when older), may experience a physical developmental delay. Such a child tends to move reflexively in an attempt to complete the sensory-motor wiring needed for learning ease. When the essential sensory-motor wiring is absent, the following behavioral indicators can alert a teacher that a child may experience a physical developmental delay:
During normal development, primitive reflexes have a limited lifespan to fulfil its function. The function of the primate reflexes are to appear to wire (build and integrate) a part of the sensory-motor system before retiring, ready to re-appear when a wired sensory-motor pathway has been affected by illness or trauma.
However, when it does not fulfil its function during the appropriate time frame, the primitive reflex remains active and the child moves / acts in an uncontrolled and reflexive manner in an attempt to complete the sensory-motor wiring needed for learning. These inappropriate movements act as SOS signals, indicating a weakness in the wiring.
Because physical development has first call on brain activity, a child with a weakness on a physical developmental level finds it difficult to sit still, concentrate, access the thinking brain and complete age appropriate tasks. Such a child has the potential to do well, but stays stuck in a physical developmental stage and may display three or more of the behavioral indicators listed in the table. Unfortunately such a child does not just ‘grow out of it’.
The child will have to complete the wiring process by mimicking the specific primitive reflex reactions responsible for building and integrating that part of the wiring, before the child can ‘grow out of it’.
Nature uses the urge to move to help children to develop. Once they have developed sufficiently physically, children can control the urge to move all the time.
Yes, due to its plasticity, the brain and body can be rewired.
For age appropriate brain and body exercises for babies and toddlers 0-3 years, visit BabyGym.
For exercises designed to mimic primitive reflexes – appropriate for preschoolers, children and teens 3 – 18 years, visit Mind Moves.
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