As life gets busier and more demands are put on parents, inevitably more is demanded of the children we drag along to follow our agenda. For many this is “normal” life. Let’s consider one of the ways this affects our children, especially those up to three years old. Children of all ages need to move, and movement is especially important in the early stages of development. Starting in utero, the movements of the baby are not just random movements but they serve a clear purpose. They are called infant reflexes and may be described as written codes in all human beings.
These reflexes first of all serve as a protection for the baby and secondly, studies show that these primary movements are partially responsible for brain development. They trigger the development of the sensory system (smell, taste, touch, sight and hearing), the proprioceptive system (the ability to know where the body is in space and time, feeling grounded and stable) and the formation of the links between the two systems. These reflexive movements are also responsible for building the nervous system and myelination of the nerves. These movements continue after birth, and through the newborn, infant, and early childhood stages.
Most of these infant reflexes are integrated by the time a child is three and then develop into lifelong reflexes. Factors such as physical, chemical, and emotional trauma all contribute to blocks that may not allow the reflexes to integrate. Traumatic birth and cesarean section are also factors. Although we may not be able to control some of these factors, one we can control is freedom of movement once baby is born.
When an infant is confined to a car seat, bouncy seat, or walker for long periods of time, they are not allowed the freedom of movement necessary to stimulate proper development. Providing a safe and comfortable place for baby to move is a simple way to stimulate healthy development. Although baby may complain a bit about their “tummy time,” they will be exercising important reflexes. You might be able to make tummy time for pleasant for your baby by lying on your own tummy facing him to keep him company. Why not get a book that shows what the particular reflexes look like and see if you notice your baby at work? There are ways to stimulate the reflexes for exercise as well. It is truly fascinating way to spend time with your baby!
Studies have also shown that children with certain challenges such as ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, autism, anxiety disorders, aggression, etc., have certain reflexes that are still active long after they should have been integrated. The great news is that integration is possible with help from someone trained in reflex integration. One of the ways these experts help children with mild to moderate brain damage is to get them on the floor crawling! With the rise in the number of children with challenges it is good to educate ourselves in how we can help our children with safe, drug-free, and FUN alternatives. It can start as simply as allowing them freedom to play and move. In this case, the more the better!