Rhythmic Movement Training

Rhythmic Movement Training Offers a 2ndOpportunity to Integrate Childhood Reflexes and Overcome Developmental Delays and Learning Difficulties

First, a note of thanks to Alexis for inviting me, as a Rhythmic Movement Training International instructor/consultant, to write this article on by childhood reflexes, developmental delays and learning difficulties (L/D), as integrating childhood reflexes is my passion. For the purposes of the article I’ll concentrate on four Primitive reflexes which various studies have shown to be closely connected to learning and attention challenges — the ATNR, STNR, TLR, and Moro Reflexes. If you would like a hand-out of the research on reflexes, please email me at: info@integratingchildhoodreflexes.com and I will be delighted to send you one. I’ll also have a fuller version of the article on my blog at www.IntegratingChildhoodReflexes.com within a few days.

What are the childhood / infant reflexes? And how are they important for learning?

Simply put, a reflex is an automatic, stereotypical reaction to a specific stimulus – either a reaction to sensory input or to a change in position. As the word “automatic” implies, this reaction occurs without conscious will or awareness, as it is controlled from the level of the brainstem and spinal cord.

The reflexes are mainly divided into Primitive and Postural reflexes, which have job descriptions and a specific timeline for their emergence, development, and integration. The Primitive reflexes develop in utero or during birth and should be integrated within the first 6-12 months after birth.

Each reflex has a movement pattern, which the baby practices over and over again until the movement becomes automatic, through myelination of the involved nerve nets. When taken in total, these movement patterns allow us to stand up and move in gravity. The Primitive reflexes are eventually inhibited by the Basal Ganglia and integrated into the Postural reflexes, which remain with us life-long.

The reflexes are inter-related, in that each reflex helps to turn on the next reflex on the timeline – then that subsequent reflex helps to inhibit the previous reflex. In other words, Reflex A turns on Reflex B and Reflex B, as it develops, causes Reflex A to go dormant or become inhibited. Reflex B also turns on Reflex C.

Preceding the Primitive reflexes, the Intrauterine(Withdrawal) reflexes emerge around 5 weeks in utero, during the embryonic stage of development. These reflexes include the Smoke and Dive reflexes, as well as the Fear/Paralysis reflex. In the presence of danger, the reflexive response is for the “whole body” to withdraw and/or freeze.

The Postural reflexes, which emerge after birth, are assisted in their development by the Primitive reflexes having laid down the fundamentals of movement. The Postural reflexes may not develop fully if the Primitive reflexes have not developed fully and then become inhibited at the appropriate time. The Postural reflexes include:

– the Righting Reflexes (maintaining an upright position of our head and eyes when we lean in different directions; coordinating a child’s gross motor movement from rolling through creeping / crawling to walking; as well as maintaining eye focus across lines of text)

– the Equilibrium Reactions (providing an automatic “protective” response when we fall or lean too far – such as putting a hand out to catch ourselves as we fall)

Grouping Reflexes (allowing groups of muscles to work together– such as when babies reach out to grasp things in order to put them in their mouth; helping to develop a child’s fine motor control and child’s near vision.)

Transitional (bridging) reflexes are neither present at birth, nor are they lifelong reflexes. These reflexes assist an infant in making the transition from one stage of development to another for example, the Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR) assists in preparing the infant to creep / crawl and to develop far vision.

When a reflex ceases to be triggered by its stimulus, it is said to be inhibited, completed, inactive, or dormant.

Integrated reflexes are always available to assist us in times of illness, trauma, or old age and will re-emerge in an attempt to keep us safe. This process is called disinhibition.


Why would Primitive Reflexes fail to integrate?
It is important that the main part of the integration and inhibition of the primitive reflexes happens while the baby is still on the floor. So, the following are possible causes of lack of full integration/ inhibition:
– Standing up and walking too early — insufficient “belly time” on the floor
– Movement being restricted by baby carriers, car seats, propping devices, sitting in jumpers and baby walkers
– Microwaves / Electro Magnetic Fields from cordless / wireless technology
– Heavy metal toxicity (environmental/vaccines)
– Stress of mother during pregnancy — breech birth, Caesarean birth, exposure to sonograms
– Trauma, illness, injury, chronic stress


What happens when reflexes fail to integrate?
A Primitive reflex which fails to become inhibited is said to be retained or locked in the nervous system… as if in a state of limbo… where it is constantly triggered, yet without integrating fully. Fatigue, muscle tension, weak muscle tone and difficulties finishing tasks are manifestations of retained reflexes. We learn to compensate for these conditions by using continuous conscious effort to perform tasks such as reading and writing… skills which are meant to be done automatically.

Retained Hand-Mouth-Foot reflexes can contribute to challenges with walking, thinking and speaking/expressing thoughts. Drooling, swallowing and TMJ problems can be present, as can manual dexterity challenges. Bonding can also be an issue when Hand-Mouth reflexes are retained.


Developmental Movement Patterns and their Relationship to Reflexes & the Senses

Primitive reflexes are part of an inner programme which assists the infant in practicing, over and over again, the exact motor movement patterns which allow us to stand up and move in gravity. Movements that are important for a baby to achieve are head control, rolling, sitting, crawling, standing, and walking.

Infant motor development follows a time schedule and includes the following patterns:
– Breathing
– Mouthing (hand/mouth connectivity & tactile sense)
– Navel Radiation (core/distal connectivity)
– Spinal Movement (head/tail connectivity) {in Kinesiology: Front/Back Integration*}

– Homologous (upper/lower body connectivity) {in Kinesiology: Top/Bottom Integration*}
– Homolateral (body half connectivity) {in Kinesiology: Left/Right Integration*}
– Contra-lateral (cross-lateral connectivity) { in Kinesiology: walking gait}

* denotes each of the 3 planes in the body (Coronal, Transverse and Saggital). Math challenges have been linked to children who do not have these 3 planes well established in their bodies.

(List taken from Movements That Healby Dr. Harald Blomberg & Moira Dempsey, available on Amazon and Book Depository)


It’s important to note that in order for Contra-lateral movement to occur naturally, all of the other developmental movement patterns must be well established. Rhythmic Movement Training (RMT) activities and balances can fill in any gaps in these developmental movement / reflex patterns.


Brain & Sensory Processing Development
Reflexes also develop the infant’s sensory processes and the linking up of the brain…
– from the neural chassis / brainstem (survival area)
– through the limbic (emotional area)
– to the cerebral hemispheres (CEO of the brain).

At birth, only the brainstem is fully developed; other areas of the brain must be “linked up.” This is accomplished by the branching out of nerve nets as each new movement pattern is initiated. Then, with each repetition of the new motor movement, the involved nerve net is coated with a fatty substance called myelin. The more an activity is repeated, the more myelination occurs, and the more automatic the activity becomes.


However, without sufficient movement, the senses may fail to develop fully, leading to inefficient processing and causing challenges with focus, attention, comprehension, reading, writing and even behaviour.


The Primitive reflexes must complete their developmental programme in order for brain development and postural stability to occur. If the Primitive reflexes do not integrate, the Postural reflexes may remain under-developed, and

a child’s level of functioning can be challenged in terms of:

– maintaining postural control when standing, sitting or moving

– balance

– ability to sit still

– coordination and motor skills

– eye movement control (reading)

– hand-eye coordination (writing)

– spatial skills

– organization

– concentration & the ability to focus

– emotional stability

– impulse control

(list taken from RMT for School Readinessby Moira Dempsey)


Even when Primitive reflexes have become inhibited, the Postural reflexes may not develop fully. This is more often found in older children who have been able to compensate well enough that they’ve not been identified as having developmental or learning problems until their teens or later. These students typically experience problems with:

– adaptation

– applying known concepts (problem solving)

– linking

– multi-processing

– sequencing

– coping with large volumes of information (information overload)

– fine motor skills

– low energy levels (mimicking depression but which do not respond to medication)

– lack of torso flexibility (trunkal integration)

– difficulty carrying out complex movement patterns needing to “think through” each movement sequence and
– difficulty adapting to rapid changes in routine

(list taken from Reflexes, Learning & Behaviour by Sally Goddard)


Reflexes and Learning

Communication & Academic Skills are dependent on Motor Skills
Speech is dependent upon the ability of the larynx, pharynx, tongue and lips to move.
Reading is dependent upon oculo-motor skills.
Writing is dependent upon hand-eye coordination, with support from the postural system.


Research has shown the following 4 Primitive Reflexes have been linked to learning & attention challenges:

(ATNR)Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (linked to poor reading, writing, spelling & math)

– (STNR) Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex(75% of children with L/Ds had a retained STNR. Also linked to ADHD)

– (TLR) Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex(linked to L/D)

– (MR) Moro Reflex(linked to specific math challenges)

These same reflexes also affect different aspects of our vision… tracking, accommodation, convergence, divergence, and fixation.

How would lack of reflex integration affect a child’s ability to learn?

The reflexes assist us in terms of attention / concentration / focus, balance / equilibrium, coordination, learning, muscle tone, postural control when standing and moving, the ability to sit still, impulse control / self-regulation, emotional stability, social skills, and sensory processing; all the skills required for learning and social interaction.

When the STNR, ATNR and TLR are retained, the upper and lower limbs are said to be “tied” to the movement of the head – until those reflexes are integrated (that is, when they become inhibited or go dormant.  This causes movement below the level of consciousness, resulting in unconscious confusion in our sensory-motor and nervous systems. This confusion negatively affects our ability to think, read, write and communicate with ease.

Compensation vs. Integration
Retained reflexes have consequences, for which we learn to compensate in the classroom, on the sports field, at work, and in relationships with our family and friends. These compensations appear to be “normal”to us; yet, as these reflexes are integrated, compensations gently and unconsciously drop away. We feel calmer, more relaxed; and are able to move, think, and learn more easily.

How do we integrate the Primitive and Postural Reflexes?
Reflexes can be integrated:

– by repeating, over and over, the movement pattern associated with a specific reflex (not our usual way in RMTi),
– by doing 2-15 minutes of gentle Rhythmic Movements daily,
– by adding isometric activities, which can speed up the efficacy of the Rhythmic Movements, and
– by adding a few special movement activities
– by using games, toys and equipment in specific ways to add variety within the movement programme

In Private sessions, including an assessment & reflex stimulation / inhibition movement programme tailored to the specific needs of the individual client — child or adult. Sessions are spaced 2-8 weeks apart. Home support requires only 2-15 minutes per day for 6-18 months, depending on the number of reflexes retained. And, as children begin to feel the benefits of the Rhythmic Movements, they will often ask to receive the movements if their parents have forgotten to do them. The movements can be done passively by the parent or actively by the child, and even while a child is asleep, so compliance is easily achieved. Some results show rapidly (often speech), others take time and repetition of movements for development to occur.

and/or in Rhythmic Movement Training International courses. (www.rhythmicmovement.com)

Courses are open to parents, caregivers, educators, kinesiologists, and professionals, such as PTs, OTs, Speech Pathologists, Developmental Optometrists, Chiropractors, Massage Therapists, and is a wonderful adjunct to other modalities.


“The role the primitive reflexes play in allowing the vestibular and other near senses to develop well, and therefore form our sensory understanding of the world around us, cannot be emphasized strongly enough. The integration of the infant reflexes and the establishment of our life-long postural reflexes are fundamental in providing us with the means to live effectively and resourcefully in the world. The more opportunities we are given as an infant to learn to master and control our movements the more complete a basis we have as we mature to build upon our understanding and experience of the world. The more resources we have as we grow, the more easily we are able to learn to survive, feel and be safe to mature fully in the world.”

(Quote from RMT for School Readinessby Moira Dempsey)


Rhythmic Movement Training offers us a second opportunity to integrate our Primitive reflexes and to fully develop our Postural reflexes. We quite simply and naturally blossom, and become more of who we really are. And, as I say to my clients, “Inner calm is now an option.”


So, what is Rhythmic Movement Training (RMT) and how did it develop?

RMT is a practice dedicated to bringing integration and balance to children and adults with specific learning and behavioural challenges, including ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, poor Balance/Co-ordination/Stamina, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, Sensory Processing and Developmental Delays.

The practice, begun in the 1970s, evolved from studying the role of the movements and reflex patterns that babies naturally make from conception to walking. Kerstin Linde (the originator), and Dr. Harald Blomberg and Moira Dempsey (the developers) of Rhythmic Movement Training, modified these natural movements to help establish, strengthen or retrain the foundations of posture, CNS maturity, sensory processing, memory, learning, emotions and behaviour.

Parents and specialists who use Rhythmic Movement Training report greatly improved functioning in the following areas:
–  Sensory Processing
–  Focus
–  Mental Health and Emotional Balance
–  Social ability/Self esteem
–  Speech Development
–  Learning, Reading, Math, and Thinking
–  Posture and Stamina
–  Release of Anxiety
–  Motivation

Practitioners have said of RMT:

Maxine Hoffman, a pediatric Physiotherapist from Ohio, USA says:
“RMT is the most valuable thing I’ve learned in 45 years of doing Physical Therapy. We are getting wonderful results from working with your reflex exercises. I am amazed at the immediate changes in severely involved autistic children.”

Evelyn Gianopoulos, Physiotherapist, Montreal, Canada
“Learning RMT has been an invaluable experience. It was easily integrated and complementary to my P.T. practice in the treatment of various conditions, including post-operative, post-traumatic, chronic pain and neurological disorders. RMT has given me a way to support patients that are in survival mode in a safe, gentle, positive and effective way.”

Wendy Humphreys Tebbutt, ARMCM

Instructor: RMTi, Brain Gym, TFH, SIPS / Consultant: LEAP-BI/Applied Physiology


info@integratingchildhoodreflexes.comor wendy.rmt.bg@icloud.com



Brain Issue : Fall 2017

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