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Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology
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The INPP Method
The Reflexes in More Detail
What is Neuro-Developmental Delay?
Assessment & Treatment
Other Intervention Programmes
Dyslexia/SpLD Diagnostic Assessments
Specialist Dyslexia/Literacy Tuition
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Copyright © Lyn Wells
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Dyslexia Assessment & Tuition
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Licentiate

What is Neuro-Developmental Delay?

Understanding the concept of ‘neuro-developmental delay’ as defined by INPP, requires a consideration of the role of reflexes in infant development. ‘A primitive reflex’ is an automatic involuntary reaction which occurs in response to a specific stimulus. These develop whilst the baby is in the womb, are present at birth and should remain for a limited time afterwards. The infant’s brain  is programmed to carry out stereotyped movements both during the pregnancy and afterwards  Over the course of the first year these movements have the effect of integrating the primitive reactions. As the primitive reflexes become integrated they are replaced by the ‘postural reflexes’ which are controlled from a higher part of the brain and normally remain with us throughout life. The integration of the primitive reflexes follows a particular developmental sequence gradually allowing us to have increasing voluntary control over skilled and complex movements.

Whilst the primitive reflexes should be integrated by 6 -12 months, this does not always happen as it should and certain reflexes may be partially or even fully retained. As a result, the postural reflexes cannot develop fully or may be completely absent.  When an INPP diagnostic assessment reveals a cluster of primitive reflexes their presence is  taken as confirmation of the immaturity of the central nervous system and this is what is meant by the term ‘Neuro-Developmental Delay’. The presence of the abnormal reflex profile indicates the omission of a stage in development.

Whilst the GP or Pediatrician examines the newborn baby to check for the presence  of primitive reflexes, it is unlikely that anyone will check later to ensure that they have integrated as they should. Retained primitive  reflexes and, as a result, under-developed or absent postural reflexes are associated with structural  central nervous system weakness  and the effects upon the organisation of the nervous system can be very  profound involving many areas of functioning. Whilst individuals with certain conditions such as Cerebral Palsy are known to have retained primitive reflexes, their association with specific learning and other difficulties in the apparently “neuro-typical” child is not widely appreciated. The retention of specific reflexes are associated with  certain symptoms such as, messy eating, a dislike of ball games or PE, anxiety, shyness, speech and language problems, awkward pencil grip, reading and writing difficulties. Others may lead to poor organization, difficulties with direction, sequencing tasks and learning to tell the time. There are many possible effects, often characteristic of the typically underachieving child, as well as many of those who have been labelled with learning disabilities such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia,  ADD/ADHD or ASD/Asperger’s Syndrome. For detailed information about the specific reflexes and effects when retained see here.
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