Child Development

The Palmer Reflex

Child Development and the Underpinning Theory to the Movement Programme

For a child to develop properly the different parts of the brain must communicate with each other in a smooth coordinated fashion. Many learning difficulties arise when this does not happen. The blocks can arise in many places. For example one child may have difficulty understanding and processing what they hear or another may have difficulty tracking two eyes together and changing focus from near focus when reading to looking up at the board. These can be termed auditory and visual processing difficulties, because the neural pathways in the brain are not processing the information effectively and learning difficulties are the result. But why does this happen?

When a baby is born the only part of a baby’s brain that functions effectively is the brainstem (a primitive part of the brain sited at the base towards the back of the skull). Slowly as a baby experiences the world nerve pathways are formed and the brain develops from the brainstem up.

The brainstem controls several reflexes that are automatic movements that help the baby: survive in the womb, support the baby to make movements during labour and the first months after birth until the nerve pathways are established. Many of the reflexes we recognise, such as the grasp reflex in the hand and the suck reflex that allows a baby to feed.

These automatic reflexes emerge are used and then settle and disappear. Each reflex lays the base for the next so if the earlier reflexes fail to emerge and settle then reflexes higher up the chain will be unable to do the same. Research has demonstrated that children who have problems with developmental delay and learning have more of these reflexes present and active.

During the assessment I test for the presence of the primitive and postural reflexes, once identified, working on these “blocks” allows the brain to mature more fully. If reflexes are retained they have first call on the neurological system and so need to be overridden it is a bit like driving a car with the brakes and windscreen wipers on, it works but none too smoothly.