Creating New Developmental Opportunities For Children With Challenges

Development during our first weeks, months and years relies heavily on our reflexes. Reflexes are congenital behavioral patterns which enable us to understand stimulus and respond appropriately. An example is stimulus on the cheek will direct an infant to turn its head to that side to nurse. We don’t learn these essential patterns, they are genetically coded into the framework of our lower Brain and Central Nervous System, and they are initiated by sensory stimulation alone. As we develop, these reflexive responses blend into the toolkit of our higher cognitive functions. However, they persist as the foundation which the acquisition of skill rests upon.

When age is counted in months, the reflexes play a primary role in understanding and development. They are the origin of intentional movement. For example. when stimulus is provided to the outside of an infants foot, the big toe should flex towards the head. This is an indicator of how well the child will master crawling, as it is necessary to get the bottom of the big toe on the ground to propel oneself forward. Success in crawling leads to development of co-ordination between the left and right sides of the body, gross motor co-ordination and intentional movements. Likewise stimulus to the palm of the hand initiates a grasp reflex response which develops into gross and fine motor skills for the hands which include differentiated, controlled and goal orientated movements.

Evaluation of the qualities of a reflex pattern, its direction, timing and strength, can help determine the types of challenges a child will encounter as they grow. Reflexes designed to respond to fearful stimulus, either through fight / flight or freezing, when incompletely matured can result in attention and hyperactivity issues, hormone imbalances and a host of other disturbances that influence cognitive and emotional development and even growth rates. Reflexes designed to integrate hand eye co-ordination are the foundation of future skills needed for learning, including writing, counting and near / far vision focus. Insufficiencies in the direction, timing and strength of a reflex pattern are compensated for by higher level brain functions. These adaptations can be very successful, but carry the stress of a workaround, and can last a lifetime.

Ongoing European and US Clinical research conducted by Dr. Svetlana Masgutova has established that we can train (re-pattern) poor performing reflex patterns. Training requires repetitious modeling of the genetically intended muscular response for a specific stimulus. The stimulus is provided, and then the body is guided through the ensuing correct pattern. As the brain comes to understand the appropriate response, skills that hinge on that intrinsic pattern gain proficiency. It is something like consolidating the foundation of a structure. The results for both children and adults can be impressive, and even older children and adults acquire new potential, sometimes with dramatic results. Training strengthens the brain’s ability to process sensory information and to effectively respond, in the same way the physical exercise strengthens muscles for grasp and standing. Invigorating these stimulus / response patterns which are essential to our wellbeing translates to greater confidence, curiosity, learning and the acquisition of mechanical and intellectual skill. The spectrum of challenges children are confronted with, from Cerebral Palsy, severe Autism, genetic disorders, debilitating OCD and PTSD as well as attention and hyperactivity disorders and many others, all respond to this type of therapy. With intensive work, it is common for a child to begin to change quickly and for change to continue indefinitely. Effectively responding to stimuli creates a sense of safety and competency which is the foundation for developing to full potential.