According to Dr. Masgutova, "Non integrated primary motor patterns or reflexes cause functioning on a survival level, which in turn leads to a narrowing of attention span, a lack of cause-and-effect thinking, and poor control of motor skills, behaviour, and spontaneous movement. When faced with an unanticipated challenge or threat, people who function at a survival level often freeze or use fight-or-flight defensive strategies rather than higher level reasoning, and they also demonstrate less motivation to learn and achieve.” (in her book Integration of Infant Dynamic and Postural reflex Patterns – MNRI).
Early movement patterns help us acquire specific skills in a neurologically programmed and sequential manner. Technically they are referred to as primitive reflexes. Many of the early movement patterns are designed by nature to assist us during birth and early survival. For example, a light touch to the cheek causes an infant to turn in that direction to breastfeed; the startle reflex leads the child to cry out for protective attention. The muscles respond automatically or involuntarily to environmental and sensory cues.
Once a movement is practiced and mastered, a more mature, learned pattern will follow. The infant's upper brain slowly learns how to move the body voluntarily. Hence the primitive reflexes are inhibited (never entirely disappearing) and transformed into more mature postural abilities during the first six months of life. If, through a variety of reasons, we are denied the opportunity to inhibit these reflexes, one or more of them will be retained beyond the optimal time and may result in a structural weakness in the central nervous system, so that the next programmed reflex is unable to develop fully. Without complete development, the sensory processing ability needed for balance, coordination, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, vision, hearing, touch and emotions might be impaired. Individuals with this challenge often do not fit into a particular diagnostic category, but the development of certain motor functions necessary to support learning fail to correspond with chronological age. The residual presence of the primitive reflexes act as a barrier to further learning.
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