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Reflex Therapy and Children with Autism

Introduction

When a baby is born, primitive reflexes are the first part of the brain that develops. These reflexes are really only active a short time and replaced by postural reflexes which aid in balance control, coordination and sensory motor development. When primitive reflexes do not integrate well or are retained, then delays in development occur. So if your child has retained primitive reflexes this may contribute to poor coordination, toe walking, asymmetrical gait, midline crossing difficulties, low muscle tone, hunched shoulders, sensory motor deficits, impulsivity, sleep disturbances, poor fine motor skills, focus and concentration issues, social and emotional delays, and cognitive and learning disability. The brain controls all thinking, emotions, and movement so in order to understand how autism spectrum children think, behave and function, we need to understand how they develop movement, posture, and muscle control.

The following chart lists the different types of primitive reflexes:
Source:
Brain Balance Achievement Centers

The two most notable methods of reflex integration are:

1)  Masgutova Neuro-sensory-motor Reflex Integration (MNRI)

MNRI was introduced in 1989 by Svetlana Masgutova, PhD, a Russian psychologist who has well documented the connection between neurological development and reflexes. Her ongoing research and development of more than 20 years and over 3000 children has brought her significant notoriety in the field. She is well known for her programs and protocols that target brain organization in order to restore and mature the primary movements, reflexes, coordination and skills of the child. Some of her therapies include neuro-structuring, tactile integration, facial reflexes, archetype movements, audio-visual reflexes and re-patterning of dynamic and postural reflexes. Her primary goal is to improve brain functioning and sensory-motor-integration by stimulating the reflex patterns because motor patterning stimulates brain development.

2)  Rhythmic Movement Training (RMT)

RTM originated in Sweden by a movement training specials and began in the 1990s with Dr. Harald Blomberg, MD, a Swedish psychiatrist in the USA. This reflex work integrates the retrained or underdeveloped infant reflexes that are involved in learning challenges such ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, writing problems, focus and comprehension difficulties. RTM targets the neural network pathway growth and myelination (myelin sheath) in the brain as well as muscle tone, posture and neck and head control. RTM has also been successful with emotional imbalances, fear and anxiety, behavioral problems all associated with autism spectrum disorder.

Related Sites

Svetlana Masgutove Educational Institute
Description:  Masgutove Neuro-sensory motor Reflex Integration (MNRI) is dedicated to developing and refining non-invasive techniques that improve, restore or optimize function, despite the challenges that may be present.

Brain and Sensory Foundations, Online Training for Parents and Therapists
Description:  The Brain and Sensory Foundations online course is for learning innate rhythmic movement and primitive reflex integration tools that are profoundly helpful for children with autism, sensory issues, anxiety, low muscle tone and related challenges.

Rhythmic Movement Training International
Description:  Rhythmic Movement Training (RMT) is a movement based, primitive (infant or neo-natal) reflex integration program that uses developmental movements, gentle isometric pressure and self-awareness to rebuild the foundations necessary to help overcome learning, sensory, emotional and behavioral challenges.

How Retained Primitive Reflexes May Affect Your Child
Description:  Did you know that we are all born with reflexes that are essential to our early survival but that must be lost in order for our brain to develop properly? For example, an infant’s palmar reflex allows the child’s palm to grasp anything that is placed in the palm, but this reflex must be lost in order for the pincer grip to develop, which allows the child to develop fine motor skills of the hands. When primitive reflexes are retained, the development of postural reflexes, which require midbrain involvement and signify the maturing of the central nervous system (CNS), is negatively impacted. As a result, proper development is affected.

The Thinking Moms’ Revolution
Description:  Autism, Reflex Integration and The Brain: Building New Connections With MNRI, A Parent’s perspective.

Books

Movements that Heal by Harald Blomberg MD
Description:  Movements that Heal gives an excellent explanation of how the Rhythmic Movement Training (RMT) and Primitive Reflex Integration program works. This book addresses the developmental and environmental factors involved in many cognitive, sensory, emotional and behavioral challenges children on the autism spectrum face.

Outsmarting Autism by Patricia Lemer
Description:  Chapter 9 of Outsmarting Autism has a very comprehensive explanation of reflexes and how they are a blueprint for motor, cognitive and social development. There are plenty of helpful references, easy to read understanding and simple techniques for parents to utilize.

MNRI® Reflex Integration & Learning Book and DVD by Svetlana Masgutova
Description:  This book is a basic introduction to Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration. It includes a DVD by Dr. Svetlana Masgutova and seven reflex re-patterning and integration exercises.

Reflexes, Learning and Behavior: A Window into the Child’s Mind: A Non-Invasive Approach to Solving Learning & Behavior Problems by Sally Goddard
Description:  This book is an overview of reflexes and their connection with skill development.

Tools

MNRI Glossary of Terms
Description:  The Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI) glossary of terms.

Svetlana Masgutova Educational Institute
Description:  The Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI) specialist directory.

Primitive Reflex Asymmetrical Tonic Reflex Lizard and Reverse Lizard
Description:  This video shows a child demonstrating the lizard and reverse lizard exercises.

Primitive Reflex Palmar Grasp Reflex Ball for Autism, ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, OCD Exercise
Description:  Video showing a child doing Primitive Reflex Palmar Grasp with a ball.

Primitive Reflex Landau Reflex Superman for Autism, ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia and OCD
Description:  This video shows a child demonstrating the superman exercise.

Parent Forums/Blogs

Some forums require you to sign in to Yahoo or Facebook to locate forum names.

Forum/Blog Name:  Autism, Reflex Integration and the Brain: Building New Connections with MNRI
Description:  A mother’s story on how she helped her child with autism through reflex therapy.

Forum/Blog Name:  Masgutova Method Blog
Description:  This blog is part of the Masgutova Educational Institute.

Forum/Blog Name:  Children with Challenges
Description:  This group is for parents of children with challenges and the professionals working with them who are using the Masgutova Method.

Forum/Blog Name:  How Retained Primitive Reflexes May Affect Your Child
Description:  Did you know that we are all born with reflexes that are essential to our early survival but that must be lost in order for our brain to develop properly? For example, an infant’s palmar reflex allows the child’s palm to grasp anything that is placed in the palm, but this reflex must be lost in order for the pincer grip to develop, which allows the child to develop fine motor skills of the hands. When primitive reflexes are retained, the development of postural reflexes, which require midbrain involvement and signify the maturing of the central nervous system (CNS), is negatively impacted. As a result, proper development is affected.