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Persistent primary reflexes: 
a neglected factor in learning and behavioral problems

Every newborn baby responds to stimuli with innate primary reflexes, which are automatic and stereotyped movements that aid the baby during the birthing process and have a vital function during the first few weeks of life. The recall of these reflexes persists until a certain stage of development and then disappears, depending on the stage of development of the central nervous system (CNS). Primary reflexes are crucial for the brain to learn to correctly control the body's functions such as processing visual and sound information, balance, spatial vision, gross and fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and more.

Psychomotor development progresses in tandem with the gradual development of balance, orientation skills, coordination of movements, and muscle strength of the entire body. The way the head, shoulder blades, shoulders, spine, pelvis, and legs are involved in standing up determines the level of mastery of these skills. The activity of primary reflexes is related to the development of these skills, so the development of psychomotor skills is directly influenced by the activity of primary reflexes.

However, primary reflexes are unconditioned reflexes that are organized at a lower level of control, starting from the brainstem, and their recall should only be possible during early stages of development or when the CNS is not fully matured. If control by higher brain functions over primary reflexes is insufficient, these reflexes may remain active even in later life. Many people have at least one persistent primary reflex, but if several primary reflexes persist, they may hinder optimal neurological development. Primary reflexes can affect sensory perception, balance, coordination of movements, and the ability to learn. Any impairment of even just one function negatively affects other functions as well.

Therefore, some children may fall behind in their development and experience difficulties in school due to persistent primary reflexes. Research shows that, for example, 92% of children with ADHD have some persistent reflex and balance disorder. Further research has also confirmed the connection between reading problems (dyslexia) and persistent primary reflexes. Problems caused by primary reflexes can persist even into adulthood, and some adults have trouble coping with the stress of everyday life due to these issues.

We can metaphorically compare a child's development to the growth of a tree. While we often focus on the child's academic abilities such as reading, writing and counting, these can be likened to the apples on a tree. In order to grow beautiful, red apples, the tree must be properly rooted and well-nourished, with a strong trunk and branches that can support healthy leaves and fruit. Although every tree is unique, they are all based on the same principles and elements governed by nature's laws. Therefore, in the development and education of a child, it is essential to consider:

  • The roots (birth and early moments after birth)

  • The trunk and branches (psychomotor development)

  • The crown (sensory and emotional abilities, cooperation of the cerebral hemispheres, cooperation of the eyes - binocularity)

  • The fruits (academic skills, speech, correct posture, coordination of movements)

If the foundations are not strong or the tree is not healthy, it cannot support the growth of healthy fruit. Sometimes, the methods commonly used for education are too challenging for some children, and we need to start from the beginning. Neuro-developmental therapy focuses on solving problems from the ground up. As AE Tansley, a well-known British expert on learning disabilities in children, wisely said: "Before we look at the social-emotional aspects, first we have to ask: does this child have the neurological tools for his age to succeed?"

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To ensure proper learning and behavior, it's crucial to have good coordination between the brain and body. For instance, smooth eye movements are necessary for reading, while proper hand-eye coordination is needed for writing, and a well-functioning balance system is required for all motor skills. Any problem in these areas can impair a child's ability to learn, and may not necessarily be due to low intelligence. Primary reflexes have a profound influence on basic physical and psychological reaction patterns.

To help a child, it's essential to rule out physical factors like persistent primary reflexes. If detected, simple physical exercises can be applied to improve the neural connection between the brain and body, as well as between brain centers. This creates a solid foundation for all aspects of learning.

Baby Crawling


Crawling is a crucial motor skill that plays a significant role in a child's development. It allows children to develop hand-eye coordination, a vital skill that helps them learn to read without skipping words or lines. Crawling also enhances the interaction of the vestibular, proprioceptive, and visual systems, leading to overall physical and cognitive development.

It is worth noting that some children with reading difficulties may not have had enough opportunities to crawl and engage in physical activities. Therefore, encouraging children to crawl can be a simple yet effective way to improve their reading skills and overall development.

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Problems with writing can be caused by persistent primary reflexes. Because without:

  • correct posture and balance,

  • sufficient integration of both halves of the body,

  • smooth hand movements,

  • sufficient fine motor skills,

  • possibilities to simply cross the center of the body and

  • well-developed dominant hands .............................................. is writing a nightmare! 

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