Movement develops the brain

Why do we expect children to sit still when conception is an active process; the ensuing cell division is an active process; development of the embryo is an active process; growth of the foetus is an active process; birth is an active process; breathing is an active process; reaching each milestone is an active process; touching, smelling, tasting, seeing and listening are active processes; eating, singing, walking, sitting, reading, writing, learning and sleeping are active processes…?

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.

Three important things to remember:

  • Physical development has first call on brain activity.
  • Physical development (sensory integration, sensory-motor integration, balance) forms the foundation for all later skills – emotional, social and intellectual (perception, reading, writing, etc.).
  • Physical development happens through movement.

Does it then mean that if a hiccup occurred that i) delayed the reaching of physical milestones or ii) scrambled the sequence of the milestones, that it may impact on a child’s emotional, social and intellectual development? The answer is yes!

SOS signals

 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 behavioural indicators can alert a teacher that a child may be experiencing a physical developmental delay:

  • Tactile defensiveness
  • Can’t hop or balance on 1 leg
  • Battles to skip and gallop
  • Clumsy
  • Poor motor planning
  • Poor static and dynamic balance
  • Finds climbing down stairs difficult
  • Fear of heights
  • Can’t tell left from right without a marker
  • Disorientation
  • Problems crossing the midlines
  • Dyspraxia
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyscalculia
  • Poor auditory processing
  • Uncontrolled eye movements
  • Hyper active or hypo active
  • Delayed language development
  • Phobias
  • Mood disorders
  • Dominant hand not established
  • Swings for long periods of time
  • Repeated banging of head
  • ADD / ADHD (previously known as minimal brain dysfunction)
  • Prefers watching TV or playing computer games to playing outside
  • Stiff posture
  • Can’t walk backwards
  • Can’t skip with a rope
  • Accident prone
  • Gets motion sick
  • Dizzy spells
  • Avoids rope bridges
  • Poor spatial orientation
  • Reversals
  • Low muscle tone
  • Avoids writing and reading
  • Dysphasia
  • Dysgraphia
  • Avoids sport and dance
  • Poor sensory integration
  • Poor perception
  • Attention deficits
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Panic disorders
  • Self-esteem disorders
  • Thrill seeking
  • Lacks impulse control
  • Asperger Syndrome

Will a child just ‘grow out of it’?

During normal development, primitive reflexes have a limited lifespan to fulfil their function.  The function of the primitive reflexes are to appear in order to 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 behavioural indicators listed in table 1. 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 develop and once they have developed children can control the urge to move.

Can you rewire the brain and body?

Yes, due to its plasticity, the brain and body can be rewired.

To rewire the communication network between the senses, brain and muscles in order to learn with greater ease, a parent and teacher needs to:

  • know which part of the communication network between the senses, the brain and the body needs wiring;
  • know which Mind Move or other activity will build that wiring;
  • know that Mind Moves is no quick fix;
  • be committed to build the necessary wiring by guiding the parent on what to do at home
  • enhance the parent’s efforts by daily repeating some moves in class.


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