A strong Foundation is the best preparation for success
I work with children who have learning challenges that are a result of neurological and motor/movement immaturity.
The most significant developer of our neurological system is movement. Babies are born with a set of stereo-typed movements they automatically execute. These movements are pre-wired into our systems and are called primitive reflexes. An example of one of the primitive reflexes is what happens when baby is lying on her back and rotates her head to the side; the arm and leg on the same side extend in the same direction as the head. This is called the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR). These automatic movements are controlled at the lowest area of the brain – the brain stem. Primitive reflexes act as both a protection mechanism for the infant as well as the first developers of our neurological systems. Repeatedly executing the primitive reflex movements helps build strong neural pathways to higher brain levels where more sophisticated movement is controlled.
If we are constructing a house built from movement, think of the primitive reflexes as the work horses that establish a strong foundation.
Rolling, Crawling, Rocking, Head Control, Creeping
At around 6 months of age, the neural pathways to the midbrain have been adequately developed and baby’s postural reflexes begin to take the place of the primitive reflexes. Movement is no longer reflexive but instead becomes more purposeful and deliberate. Baby begins to make all the movements that will train balance, posture and coordination to the point that they become unconscious. Postural reflexes are controlled at the mid-brain level and help build the neural pathways to the cortex – the highest area of the brain.
When we look at our blueprint for our house built from movement, think of the postural reflexes and mid-brain as the walls and support beams.
Equilibrium, Muscle Tone, Head-Righting, Balance
If our primitive reflexes have gone in for a long nap (they never disappear, but instead become dormant), then our postural reflexes are doing a fine job providing the utmost support for our cortex. All the effort baby has put into crawling, standing, walking, running, twirling, twisting and turning has helped develop a strong pathway from the midbrain to the cortex – the area of the brain reserved for learning, creating, planning and thinking.
Think of the cortex as the roof of the house we built from movement.
Academics, Appropriate Behavior, Sports, Emotional Maturity
Physical skills underlie all learning; reading involves development of smooth eye movements; writing requires hand-eye coordination; sitting still at a desk requires balance.
When primitive reflexes stay active and postural reflexes are unable to develop appropriately, we know tutoring, extra lessons, homework help and any other intervention that addresses cognitive function will not help because the root of the problem does not lie with the cortex, but with the inadequate neural pathways between the brain stem, midbrain and cortex and an under-developed motor system. In essence, the foundation is cracked. Without a stable foundation, success of any type is extremely difficult and precarious at best.
With a stable foundation, the possibilities are endless.
I received my Neuro-developmental delay remediation Certification from and am a licentiate of The Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology (INPP) in Chester, England. The INPP Method is unique in that we start our interventions at the lowest level neurological or motor disfunction is found. We begin by building a strong foundation – we inhibit any primitive reflexes that may be hanging around. Next, we erect walls and beams – we establish and strengthen postural reflexes. To raise the roof, we make sure that strong, secure neurological pathways have been established all the way up to the cortex. We start with a strong, secure foundation, erect the walls, and top it off with the roof. It doesn’t make sense to patch a failing roof that is the result of a cracked foundation.