I blew up a balloon and gave it to him. He was already on his back on the floor, in the exact position I was going to ask him to take– before I even handed him the balloon.
I had recently started working with this 9 year old boy. He was fearful of many situations and we were working on integrating the MORO primitive reflex that day.
One of the activities we do for this reflex is called the “Super Star”. It’s a movement that mimics the MORO response of the limbs/head coming in towards the core of the body and then opening up into a “star” position with arms and legs extended.
Before I even started working with this boy on that particular day, his body already knew the exact position he needed to be in. Once I gave him the balloon, he immediately lifted his feet and hands up and started kicking and hitting it into the air, and then “relaxing” by laying his arms and legs on the floor in that exact “star” position. Although not exactly the “Super Star” activity, this modified version is what I use with clients sometimes to work on the reflex in a more playful way.
The thing that amazed me, and still does to this day when it happens (which is often!) is that his body knew exactly the movement and position it needed to be in. I never said anything to him. I didn’t ask him to lie on his back and start kicking and hitting the balloon, all I did was give him the balloon!
Let me give you another example. There was another boy I was working with, about the same age. He was working on the STNR (Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex). We had set up an obstacle course with items I had brought and that he had available at his house. He was enjoying jumping, climbing over things and balancing. I gave him a ball that was about the size of a playground ball to add to the complexity of the obstacle course. I suggested that maybe he roll it as he went through, or throw and catch. He said to me “I know! What if I hold it over my head and go through the obstacle course that way!”.
Now, if you don’t have an understanding of the STNR reflex, or weren’t really paying attention, you might just think that this was another way that a 9/10 year old boy plays- making up new rules to make a game more challenging. But to me- with my knowledge and understanding of the STNR reflex, I knew exactly what we was doing. You see, the STNR reflex is a transitional reflex whose primary purpose is to get a baby into the crawling position. Completing activities and movements that isolate the top and bottom of the body can help to integrate this reflex.
By holding the ball up over his head, what was this boy doing? That’s right! He was isolating his top half from his bottom half. His arms were no longer available to help him work his way through the obstacle course and he had to rely solely on his legs and lower part of the body. His body and subconscious mind knew. It knew what he needed- on that particular day- to work on that particular reflex. How cool is that!!
Along with this concept of “the body knows” there is another awesome thing that happens when we work with clients. That is when in between sessions the clients make progress toward integrating the reflex. As a reminder, we are working on primitive reflexes that either didn’t finish integrating (or becoming dormant) for whatever reason. Maybe they were interrupted at a particular place in development, or got “stuck”, but regardless, they didn’t integrate.
When we start working with clients, it’s like we “jump-start” the reflexes again. We jump-start them with intentional movements and activities and play. And then what happens? The body starts to take over and help out! I like to tell the kids and parents that it’s like were reminding the body of what it was supposed to do and the body’s response is “Oh! that’s what I was supposed to do- thanks for the reminder!”
Now you may be wondering how I know that the child’s body is working on the reflex outside of our sessions? There’s a few ways. First, I often get texts from my clients’ parents showing me pictures of movements or activities they are doing that they never did before. A common one is somersaults. When a client’s TLR (Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex) isn’t fully integrated, they are reluctant to do somersaults because the neck is so locked up and tight and it’s really hard to tuck their chin. Once we start working on the TLR and “reminding” the body of what it should be working on, somersaults become easier and often kids start doing them- on their own!
Another way I know that the client has been working through the reflex is by muscle checking (AKA Applied Kinesiology). If you’ve read this blog post of mine you will recognize me talking about this technique. But basically, it’s a way to use the muscles of the body to get information from the subconscious mind. When we work with clients, we use muscle checking to find out what reflex to work on, but also to find out where on the “continuum” the reflex is- from emerging, through developing and onto integration.
So, most times, once we’ve identified the reflex we’re working on that day, I will muscle check the client to see where the reflex is on that particular day and compare it to the last time we worked on it. My experience has been that just about every time, the reflex has moved along on the continuum at least a little bit. And I’ll bet, that if I was with the child all the time and was paying attention, I would see all the subtle ways that the client’s body was working on the reflex between sessions. I will also tell you, that when I do this with kids- show them how their reflex changed all on it’s own- they (and their parents) are WOWED, and often think it’s the coolest. thing. ever.
The body knows what to do. Those primitive reflexes may have gotten stuck or interrupted, but with intentional “reminders” the body picks up where it left off and continues the work. With, and without…me.