Recap for Blog 37 – discovering the primitive reflexes: Jake and Zani listen to Baby’s heartbeat for the first time and celebrate by letting Vee in on their precious secret. How on earth Baby managed to develop from one cell to millions of cells in only 50 days, remains a mystery.
I can hardly wait to get home from work. After dinner Jake finds his favourite spot on the floor in front of the couch with his back to me so I can massage his neck and shoulders, while the introduction to the series of radio interviews by Dr Melodie de Jager is playing.
As a developmental specialist I have been involved with the remediation of children with learning problems for many years. Extensive research has indicated that learning problems were primarily due to various factors such as poor language development, insufficient thinking skills, low IQ, ADD, ADHD and children entering school without being school ready. The approach was to teach these children the needed skills and drill it in if necessary. Many of the older listeners will be able to relate to this process. Later research also indicated that a more emotionally supportive approach may be needed and with the increased awareness of the importance of EQ (emotional intelligence), that approach was implemented in many remedial situations. What was puzzling was no matter how well structured the curriculum, no matter how prepared the teachers, or multi-sensory the teaching aids were and no matter if these lessons were presented in an emotionally supportive environment, some children still did not learn. Many theories were forthcoming, but one of them had a freshness of approach that questioned one of the most fundamental assumptions we had been making and that was that the ability to learn was innate in all. Yes, the ability to learn is innate in all, but what the researcher Peter Blythe pointed out, was that the innate ability to learn has a neural developmental basis and if that basis is faulty, learning does not take place. The researcher further indicated that the neural developmental basis of learning was an internally driven process propelled by a series of primitive reflexes. A reflex is an involuntary muscle reaction, without thought, just like breathing. A primitive reflex is an involuntary muscle reaction with the purpose to develop a specific neurological pathway or pathways between the senses and the brain, pathways between the different parts of the brain, and pathways between the brain and muscles. In simple terms, this means that the primitive reflexes wire up the whole brain and body so a baby can feed, can crawl; can stand; can walk and talk; a child can sit up straight and still; can tie his shoe laces, cut along a line, concentrate and learn the alphabet. If any of the pathways are not wired up, the child may battle to learn. In this series we are going to start with the withdrawal reflex, and then have a look at only a few of these primitive reflexes:
the Moro reflex
the Rooting and Sucking reflex
the Tonic labyrinthine reflex
the Palmar and Plantar reflexes
the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck reflex
the Spinal Galant reflex
These are not all the primitive reflexes – there are thousands of primitive reflexes. We are only going to focus on these eight reflexes as they seem to have the most profound effect on the ability to learn. We stay engrossed, marvelling at what she has to say.
“Jake, I got a bit lost in the beginning and thought maybe I’d made a mistake when I ordered the recordings, because I couldn’t see how this was relevant to our baby.”
“Yip, she did go to Cape Town via Cairo, but I suppose she had to show that what happens early in life does echo throughout life. I’ve told you about the withdrawal reflex – shall we go on to the Moro reflex?”
Jake loads the next recording and my hands continue to play with his hair while we listen.