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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 4, No. 5 - September/October 2012

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Retained Primitive Reflexes

By Dorte Bladt

I love going to work! There are always so many things happening; kids talking, singing, climbing, playing and having fun. Not that I can take part, of course; I am working after all, but I love the energy, excitement and feel of it.

Lachlan came in for his first visit on a day like that. And he fitted right in, had fun, explored, asked lots of questions while his mother filled in the paperwork. His high energy continued in the consultation; he was emptying my drawers, unscrewing bits on my chiropractic table and leafing through the books on my bookshelf. He did not sit still for a second. Mum looked exhausted; "He's always like this, and I can't keep up, nor can the teacher at school. They would like for him to be put on medication to slow him down so he can learn. He is behind with reading and comprehension and it is affecting his self-esteem".

Lachlan was suspected to suffer with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Mum wanted to see if I could help before she went to the paediatrician to get medication for him. Looking at Lachlan, I could understand why; he was very busy! Usually ADHD is diagnosed by the parents and the school filling in a questionnaire asking about the behaviours of the child.

Your child may often:

  • Fail to give close attention to details or make careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities
  • Have difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
  • Not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Fidget with hands or feet or squirms in seat
  • Leave their seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
  • Run about or climb excessively in inappropriate situations
  • Blurt out answers before questions have been completed
  • Have difficulty awaiting his/her turn
  • Interrupt or intrude on others (for example, butts into conversations or games)

Looking at Lachlan, I was wondering if there was possibly something other than ADHD happening.

He looked unwell, with dark circles around the eyes and a pasty complexion, and he was sniffing incessantly. Mum confirmed that Lachlan suffered with colds, flu and ear infections all the time. She also explained that he couldn't seem to concentrate on anything except what he himself wanted to do at any given time. She complained that he would explode in huge temper tantrums several times a day, and that it was difficult for him to make and keep friends.

When I examined Lachlan it became clear that he had several Retained Primitive Reflexes, the most obvious one being Startle Reflex.

Our brain and nervous system control and coordinate the function of all cells, organs and systems in our body. The development of the brain and spinal cord starts three weeks after conception, and at five weeks it starts to respond to the environment through the onset of a series of primitive reflexes. These reflexes are patterns of movement in response to a stimulus, which helps the baby move through the birth canal and practice rudimentary movements needed when in gravity in the real world. The reflexes ensure the survival of the newborn, and once this has been achieved, the reflexes are replaced by voluntary movements which we depend on for the rest of our lives.

It is important that the reflexes are present in a baby and that they are even on both sides. As the baby develops over the first year of life, the reflexes become integrated into more selective responses, so the child can learn to roll, creep, crawl, walk, write, talk and concentrate.

If the reflexes do not integrate properly, there is a higher risk of learning difficulties, behavioural problems, being uncoordinated, poor concentration and attention, as well as difficulty with writing, posture and visual or auditory perception.

With regards to Startle Reflex; when a baby is surprised or scared, for example by a bright light, loud noise, rough touch or a sudden movement, he/she will startle; extend the arms and legs and take a breath in, followed by flexing of spine and limbs and a loud cry.

This reflex will help the baby take its first breath when it is born and after that is, a way to communicate the need for assistance and help from mum. This is a fight or flight reflex, a stress response, which is essential for the first few months of life.

After this time the reflex should integrate and become a more conscious decision whether to get scared or not.

If Startle Reflex doesn't integrate properly the child will often be over-reactive and aggressive, easily distracted, have poor attention, and possibly be labelled ADHD. The child will often be unwell with colds and flus, etc, and may be allergic and hypersensitive to foods and airborne allergens due to continuous exposure to stress hormones.

That sounds pretty much like Lachlan, doesn't it? Lachlan's mum decided to try chiropractic to see if that would help his brain and nervous system function better, and allow him to settle down both at school and at home.

I did some very gentle, safe and comfortable adjustments to Lachlan's spine over a period of time, and also showed him how to do some specific brain training exercises. In addition we looked into changing the family's diet to help Lachlan's immune system.

Lachlan responded phenomenally well to chiropractic care. He is focusing much better at school, is able to sit for longer periods, can follow instructions better and has caught up on his learning delays in all areas. Lachlan is a much happier child. As a result he is making new friends, with whom he can play and have fun and family life is more pleasant for everyone!

Retained Primitive Reflexes can have powerful effects on learning, behaviour and emotional wellbeing.

Many children respond well to this type of care, and it should be considered before trying more drastic measures such as medication.

If you are interested in learning more about how to improve the function of your child's brain and nervous system, we are holding a free information evening 9 October (see page 19 for more details).

During the evening we will address the importance of a healthy nervous system and show you ways to see whether your child's nervous system is working well or not. We will give you some tools in the shape of brain training exercises and nutrients. Seating at the venue is limited, so please call now to book your place P: 4926 4799.

More Information

Dorte Bladt
Doctor of Chiropractic
Family Chiropractic Centre Charlestown
2 Lincoln St, Charlestown NSW 2290
P: 02 4942 4842


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