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What is Neuro-Developmental Delay and how does it affect learning?

Neuro-Developmental Delay describes the continued presence of a cluster of primitive reflexes in a child over six months of age, together with absent or under-developed postural reflexes above the age of 3 ½. The presence or absence of primitive and postural reflexes at key stages in development provides evidence of immaturity in the functioning of the central nervous system and will influence the development and control of posture, balance and motor skills.

5 simple activities to get children moving in the classroom

1. Good morning stretch & song

2. Hand-clapping games

3. Tell a story through movement

4. Add gestures to help memorize facts

5. Nerf ball catch

Research over the last 40 years has shown that there is a direct link between immature infant reflexes, academic underachievement and increased anxiety. A remedial program aimed directly at stimulating and integrating primitive and postural reflexes can affect positive change in these areas.

Primitive reflexes are involuntary stereotyped responses to external stimuli that all infants make. Controlled at the lowest level of the brain – the brain stem, they develop in the womb, help the baby pass through the birth canal and frequently act as protective actions for the infant. Primitive reflex activity lays the foundation for further brain development. Most primitive reflexes go dormant around the time the baby is 6 months old. This occurs as the Postural reflexes emerge and take over.

If a primitive reflex persists past the age of 6 months (except for the STNR) it is considered to be retained. Retained primitive reflex action can inhibit development of neurological pathways between higher and lower centers as well as the development of postural reflexes.

Postural reflexes help us maintain balance and plan how to move. They are mediated at the mid brain level, which is the area that oversees the mechanics of our movement. They remain with us for life and help lay the foundation for optimal cortical function.

When postural reflexes are not able to properly develop, they are considered to be immature. They are not sufficiently established to maintain balance or support voluntary movement which is necessary for the highest level of the brain - the cortex - to perform adequately.

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