What can be done to help?
The Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology’s treatment programme can give the brain a second chance to integrate these reflexes. The institute was founded by Peter Blythe and David McGlown in the 1970’s. Peter was later joined by Sally Goddard in 1988. It was here that the INPP Program building upon the work of earlier pioneers in the field, was initially conceived, researched and developed and first used to help children with specific learning disabilities, coordination, behavioural and emotional difficulties. Sally is now the Director of the Institute and the author of a number of very influential, books, papers and articles on the subject. For more than 30 years thousands of children have been helped worldwide and INPP have developed as an international centre for research, training and clinical work in the field. For further information see: www. inpp.org.uk
The INPP method consists of physical exercises based upon the movements normally made by the developing infant. The Institute attribute their success to the fact that their programme starts at the developmental level of the individuals neurological immaturity and is highly specific to the individual’s presenting reflex profile. Whilst a struggling child may be helped by individualised teaching and support in the classroom this will have only limited impact upon progress if underlying developmental issues are not also being addressed. The child’s development of the senses of vision, touch and hearing as well as the senses of balance and the compound sense of proprioception (our sense of where we are in space) and our ability to integrate all of these as a basis for living and learning is usually impaired where there is an abnormal reflex profile. The assessment of the reflexes as well as other soft signs of neurological dysfunction provides the starting point to begin remediating the aspects of sensory-motor development that may underlie presenting problems.
The assessment consists of extensive tests of gross and fine motor control, patterns of motor development, presence of reflexes, laterality, oculo-motor functioning, perceptual ability and visual-motor integration. Based upon knowledge of reflex chronology, normal child development and the theory of replication, the therapist then prescribes very specific, daily movements that retrain the reflex pathways and give the nervous system a second chance to develop more normally. As a result, improving the control of balance, posture, voluntary movement, visual and perceptual abilities. All of which are extremely important in facilitating a more secure sensory-motor foundation for effective learning of skills such as reading, writing, arithmetic, coordination and social-emotional behaviour.
The effects of a combination of abnormal primitive and postural reflexes can be far reaching. For the child with retained reflexes school life can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Unknown to the child, many reflexes are triggered through the balance mechanism, often by slight movements of the head, or some aspect of the school environment that other children can simply ignore e.g. a sudden noise or movement in the visual field. Having to manage each day with the impact of a profile of primitive reflexes upon academic, physical and social skills eventually has an impact on the child’s self-esteem. Many children driven by the need to cope and be accepted will do whatever they can to deflect attention away from their genuine difficulties including engaging in oppositional or disruptive behaviour. Whilst such coping strategies may provide a way to get some form of positive affirmation from the peer group they invariably backfire in the long term. Many parents notice improved self-esteem following neuro-developmental therapy .