Reflexes are automatic, involuntary movements or responses to outside stimuli. Many reflexes begin in the womb and continue to develop after birth. They serve as the building blocks for more complex movements and actions such as crawling, self-feeding, and more. As your baby gets older, these reflexes will integrate, which means they stop being automatic responses and start being actions that your baby controls.

Some examples of newborn reflexes include:

Rooting Reflex

When the nipple touches baby’s cheek near their mouth, they will turn their head toward it to nurse. This is a vital reflex that helps your baby get the nutrients they need for healthy growth, and it usually integrates by about 4 months old.

Moro Reflex

When baby experiences a sudden loud noise or movement, their arms and legs will extend with their palms facing upward. This reflex is important for cognitive and gross motor skill development and usually integrates by 6 months old.

Grasp Reflex

When you place a finger or small object against your baby’s palm, they will automatically grasp it and may hold tighter if you try to pull away. This helps develop fine motor skills needed for play and self-feeding and should integrate by 6 months old.

Why is Reflex Integration Important?

Reflex integration is vital for the smooth transition from reacting to the environment to purposeful, controlled actions. When reflexes don’t integrate as expected, it can impact a child’s development. For example, the moro reflex (or startle reflex) is fine in babies; but if a toddler or school-age child holds onto this reflex, they can feel very anxious and have a hard time relaxing. Any sudden sound or movement will have them reacting involuntarily, and it can affect their sense of safety and confidence.

How Do Reflexes Impact Development?

As your child grows, their reflexes should integrate and allow them to gain new developmental skills—and these skills should be gained in a specific order. For example, your baby should become mobile by:

  1. Rolling over
  2. Sitting up
  3. Crawling
  4. Walking

Unintegrated reflexes can disrupt this regular pattern of development and cause children to skip one of these steps (i.e., they will skip crawling and just start walking). Many parents mistakenly believe that this means their child is advanced. But this is actually a sign that some reflexes are not properly integrated, which can lead to developmental challenges down the road.

How Pediatric Therapy Facilitates Reflex Integration

Our pediatric therapists use proven techniques to support reflex integration and help your child achieve their milestones. We can assess your child’s skills to determine which reflexes are not integrated and how this is impacting their development. We then use customized therapy plans involving simple, play-based techniques to help promote reflex integration. With routine therapy sessions, we can help your child fully integrate their reflexes for healthy development, improved confidence, and successful movement.

Free Developmental Screening

If you’re concerned about your child’s development, you can take advantage of our free online developmental screening. This tool is a convenient way for parents to know with certainty if your child is achieving their developmental milestones or if they need extra support to achieve their brightest future.

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