Reflections: causes and solutions to learning and behavior problems

  • 2014

Hyperactivity, hypo activity, dyslexia, lack of concentration, literacy problems, language, fears and aggressiveness, are some of the symptoms that are very commonly related to primitive reflexes that have not been transformed into postural skills. In this article we will approach this complex subject.

By Tamara Chubarovsky, October 2015

Through the senses and rhythmic movements that the baby makes of swinging, rotating, lifting the head, hand movements, eyes (he puts his hand to his mouth, takes things calculating distances and regulating the view), crawling and finally the walking, neuronal connections between different parts of the brain are possible. The brain learns by experimenting: it is through movement and sensory experiences that neuronal circuits are made, which will be the basis of all life-long learning .

From the beginning it is being programmed, as it is called, the hard disk of our brain and with that information it will process the data. From this follows the great importance of the first years of life. Children who have not been able to move properly in their childhood, (children who have been hospitalized, in an incubator, much in masicosis or carts etc.) may later have learning problems, in addition to difficulties at the emotional, psychic, and physical level .

It has tremendous consequences for development to limit the movement of children (they are placed in the stroller, car seats) leaving them half hours immobilized instead of leaving them on the floor, or in a blanket, where they can move freely.

The most frequent cause of learning difficulties and lack of attention is due to the presence of active primitive reflexes, lack of correct development of the neuronal circuits responsible for sight, hearing and movement development. In turn, the inhibition of reflexes and the development of movement in general, depends on the cultivation of the basic senses, that is, on the vestibular, tactile, proper, perceptual and vital system, of which we speak so much in Waldorf pedagogy, and that Jean Ayres discovered and revalued in his work "Sensory integration and in children" (1998), the basis of the so-called sensory integration therapy or occupational therapy.

What are primitive reflexes?

When the baby is born, it has reflexes that are essential for survival and for its subsequent development. They are automatic movements directed from the brainstem, (the most primitive part of our brain, ) are not controlled voluntarily, that is, there is no cortical involvement. Thanks to these reflexes, the baby can later develop the postural reflexes, which will allow him to stand, walk, talk, write, ride a bicycle, catch balls in the air, tie his shoelaces, etc.

These reflexes, once done, must disappear. If these remain active due to problems in pregnancy, childbirth, and early childhood, they can cause delays in motor development, emotional problems, attention problems, concentration, hyper-activity, hypo-activity, problems with language etc ...

The child is very easily credited with the term vague, hyperactive, fearful, messy, aggressive. However, there are no children guilty of it. Every child when he is born learns and wants to learn. Then he finds difficulties, which may be from the outside or from his structure. What it is about is to see ways to help them, not to enlarge their problems by adding our misunderstanding, over-demand and scolding.

What happens when these reflexes are still active?

These Reflections, when they have already fulfilled their mission, are integrated and give way to the acquisition of certain skills. But there are some children - and adults - who have failed to inhibit these reflexes, for various reasons, and continue to keep them active at ages when they should no longer be. These people have not had the possibility of acquiring certain skills and learning and behavior difficulties begin to set.

For example, some children do not systematize reading because they do not acquire the ability to move their eyes properly, others do not systematize writing because they are not able to use the arm and hand in the right way for it, others will be unable to remain seated attending in class because each rubbing of their body with the chair causes them a shock that they are unable to prevent, etc.

Symptoms such as:

Hypersensitivity to light, noise and touch (can not stand to be touched)

Balance problems,

Fear and insecurity

Dizziness in the car

Bad coordination of arms and legs

Problems riding a bicycle

Trouble catching balls

Muscular stiffness

Difficulty swimming

Trouble tying shoelaces and buttoning.

Laterality not defined

Bad letter

Muscle weakness (they hold their heads to write or study)

Bad postures, scoliosis

Problems holding the pencil

Memory and learning problems

Rudolf Steiner talks about how in the first 7 years of life, the I, that is to say his individuality, his eternal being, has to enter the inherited physical body and transform it. It has to be done with him. You have to be able to own your own home, that the body is at your service in order to carry out your life mission .

A body full of reflexes is indicative of an I that has not been able to penetrate the physical body. A body full of involuntary reflex movements is a body that the self has failed to transform. The big question is: Is the body your best ally, who gives you support to do what you want and must do, or is the body an impediment? Helping children overcome their reflexes, we help them to strengthen their self, their being, their individuality, not to be subjected by external stimuli, to have their own center. A reflex-free body is a body where each muscle and joint can move freely and autonomously. This gives us a general feeling of freedom and autonomy in our lives. Being subject to reflexes and stimuli removes freedom from us.

How are these reflexes resolved or reintegrated?

Rhythmic movements and recapitulation of the evolutionary stages through the ZOO exercises

It is about recapitulating the rhythmic movements that babies do naturally and spontaneously.

Certain rhythmic movements, as well as cross movements and eye movements stimulate the cerebellum, the vestibular system (balance) and speech centers, increase the muscle tone of the extensor muscles, improving posture, activating neuronal connections, and therefore having important effects for reading and writing, and producing relaxation and emotional balance. Each time a reflex is integrated, there is a physical, emotional and cognitive ability that is achieved.

The exercises, which we call in Waldorf support pedagogy Exercises of the ZOO, are excellent, because they recapitulate through the different types of animals, the stages of motor development of the baby. When the child is in therapy, a specific series is sent for a few weeks, and these exercises should be practiced with the parents, about 10 minutes a day. However, there are numerous opportunities to make these series (fish, snake, seal, lizard, crab, elephant, lurking lion, cow, monkey), through games, rhymes and stories. For years I had consultation of children with difficulties and also children's theater groups. In both places, through play, stories and rhymes, he tried to get the children to restore their movement patterns in a medical way. This is a good way to work them in school or leisure, at a preventive level, with all children, although of course, if a child has an acute problem, he should see a specialist, especially if it is already older than 7 years.

A book that talks about this topic is `` My son is not a problem, he has a problem '' by Maria Docavo. Indispensable of course is reflexes, behavior and learning, by Sally Goddard.

In Tales to see, hear and feel ”, I give examples of how to work them through stories that contain many animals. On the DVD Rhymes and Movements Games, some examples of rhymes appear. We see that the rhyme of the elephant lends itself to practice symmetric crawling (both the right hand and the right leg move at the same time), then in the cow's rhyme we have the possibility of working the cross-pattern crawling. It is important to keep in mind that, to be effective, we must start with the simplest animals in the chain, with invertebrates, starting with fish. The amphibians will give us the following movement scheme and finally with the mammals, we enter the last stage. Although always in a progressive way: spin, roll, crawl symmetrically, crawl with crossover, crawl symmetrical, crawl with crossover. And without forgetting other variants that other animals give us such as the frog, the hare, the crab etc. All movements fun and greatly integrating. The rhymes will also help the movements to be rhythmic, enhancing their effects. In fact there is a therapy to inhibit reflexes called "rhythmic movement therapy".

I would also like to point out that although the reflexes are usually due to physical causes, whether as a result of a difficult delivery, pregnancy with stress or poor movement, incubator and general lack of movement in the first year of life, taking into account that the reflexes are Survival and protection responses can also be developed in cases where the mood-emotional environment of the environment produces stress and feeling of lack of protection, the child reacts defensively, through a greater development of primitive reflexes. That is why, as important as the possibility of the child moving freely and sufficiently, is that around the child a loving environment of warm protection reigns, where he feels he can breathe and move safely, an environment where he sits Dear and careful.

Let's summarize the ways to overcome primitive reflexes:

Preventive Level:

Pregnancy calm emotionally and physically active (without excesses)

Childbirth, as natural as possible.

First hours of life of the baby, without frights. Quiet, with your mom, without so many medical checks.

Stage from 0 to 2 months, with a lot of swinging (rocking, carrying in pareo, cradling ...). Avoid masicosis.

From 2 months, or before, in addition to rocking it, allow spaces on a flat surface, where you can roll, turn, lift your head ...

Until the year, increasingly allow more free movement spaces on the ground.

In the second year, even more dynamic movement.

From 3 years old, we can start very freely with animal games. Only at 5, 6, you can start doing more systematized, but always through the game, without becoming aware of your problem.

With children over 9 years, the game is transformed into therapy, they are already aware that something is wrong in school and we will explain, that these exercises (now, well, well systematized) will help you overcome your difficulties.

At all ages, lovingly accompany the child, who lives in a "good and beautiful" environment.

Nor should we forget the importance of food, avoiding refined sugars and preservatives, as well as a good sleep rhythm.

Next I will describe a reflection that has a great relationship, not only with learning difficulties, but also with behavior and attention.


During childbirth it should be present and maintained until the 2nd month, having been inhibited no later than the 4th month, becoming the normal startle reaction. The trigger of this reflex are external stimuli of the sensory system as a whole. The expression in the gestures shows two phases: in the first the legs, arms and even the hands are stiffly separated from the body and the mouth is opened for inspiration. In the second phase all the limbs flex towards the center of the body and exhalation occurs, eventually accompanied by a scream. As a physiological reaction, adrenaline and cortisone are released, the heart rate accelerates and rises. The mission of this reflex is the training of the nervous system to be able to react to life-threatening situations. It also carries the denomination of survival reflex. When this reflex cannot be fully developed within due time, there is a danger that it cannot be transformed into the normal reflex of fright and be integrated. The consequences are hypersensitivity to all sensory impressions, difficulties in concentration and increased need for sugar. It is under discussion, if a first phase of the moro, poorly integrated, can lead to air congestion, that is, the predisposition to asthma. Yes, it is known that excess defense reactions with increases in adrenaline and cortisone cause great wear and weakening of the immune system. The body's defense system overloads itself by defending itself from sensory stimuli and when a virus or bacteria arrives, it is low. More and more children are observed presenting a table that indicates the consequences of non-integrated reflex-moro. During classes, noise haunts these "Moorish children" because they cannot separate secondary noises, which is why they cannot clearly hear the teacher's voice, sometimes phonemes cannot be heard differently, auditory memory does not develop properly. The poor reaction of the pupils can cause a start against the excessive luminosity on the white paper. Balance problems lead to excessive reactions and mild discomfort. The sense of touch is affected by hypo or hyper sensitivity. All these alterations lead to a disorder of the vital sense, of the feeling of well-being. The mood reactions are evidenced through low mood stability, fears, aggressiveness, lack of self-esteem, need for order and control to be able to protect themselves. Criticism can hardly be supported and transformed. The Moorish reflex is the only one that concerns the four basic senses (touch, vital, balance, proper movement) in early childhood. It is for this reason that people who cannot transform it promptly call attention to their surrounding environment.

A game that helps inhibit this reflex:

We will say to the child:

"The bug was quiet in the sunbathing ball (relaxed child on his back), when suddenly he heard a noise, and quickly made a ball." (I clap hard, and at that signal, the child curls up).

In the reflection, before a start, the members stretch. In the game, before the shock, the child must shrink. In addition, you should try to bring your head close to the knees, maintaining balance, with cervical tone, etc. Excellent exercise! And if it rolls, it does not raise its head or does not shrink, we do not correct, nor do we draw attention to the difficulty, we simply repeat it, over the course of the days, until it manages to do so.

Tamara Chubarovsky, October 2014,

Reflections: causes and solutions to learning and behavior problems

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