I don’t remember the exact conversation that took place between Pam Formosa (owner/director of Brain Fit Academy) and my husband and I. However, I’m sure that it happened during our initial screening appointment with her and I know it went something like this:
Pam: “Did he ever crawl? As a baby, did he crawl?”
Me: “No- he didn’t. He started walking at nine months.”
Pam: “Hmm…let me explain something….”
At this point, she would have explained the STNR reflex to us.
STNR stands for Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex. Also, sometimes referred to as the crawling reflex. This is the reflex that when the baby raises its head against gravity, the baby’s arms extend, lifting the chest off the floor. The knees and hips bend and the baby sits on their heels. If the baby looks down while on all 4’s, their arms bend and their legs straighten.
The primary purpose of the STNR is to get the baby into the crawling position, and it is expected to emerge (show up) at around 6-9 months after birth, and integrate (finish) by around 9-11 months. But you see, the STNR plays a bigger role in the grand scheme of things because this reflex (once integrated) gives way to the emergence and development of life-long postural reflexes.
Now as a young mother, I can remember thinking (and perhaps even bragging!) about how my children must have been so ahead of development that they didn’t have to crawl.
Neither of my children crawled. They both went from pulling themselves up on the furniture, to cruising the furniture, to walking. Literally no crawling. Not even a funky, different type of crawl, or a creep. Nope- right to walking. Both right around 9-10 months of age. And, my children are 18 months apart, so let me tell you- that made for some busy times!!
You may be wondering at this point- why is it so important that babies crawl? Well, remember how I’ve explained in other posts that primitive reflexes are early motor patterns that babies go through? And how that early movement sets up the brain for later development? The STNR reflex (and the integration of it) also plays an important role for later development.
If the STNR reflex is unintegrated (hasn’t finished it’s job) some of the things you might see are:
- The inability to crawl on hands and knees
- No isolation in upper/lower body
- The tendency to slump when sitting- particularly at a desk or table
- Difficulty doing activities where one side of the body must do a movement that is opposite of the other. For example, holding a paper steady or tying shoes.
Just like the other primitive reflexes, the body needs to work through the motor patterns of the STNR in order for life-long reflexes to take over.
The STNR is kind of like a culmination of earlier reflexes- it helps to pull them together. Without integration of earlier reflexes, the STNR has a hard job emerging and doing its job.
So when I think about how my children didn’t crawl, and with what I know now about primitive reflexes, I see the connections. Especially for my youngest son- who is the one that went through the Brain Fit program.
When he started at Brain Fit, he couldn’t sit in a chair properly. He would sit on his foot, or he would stand. Although he had learned to tie shoes, it had taken us a really long time to teach him how to do it. He had such a hard time using both hands to do different things. Same for holding a paper while writing.
In fact, I remember when he was in maybe 2nd or 3rd grade? One of his teachers helped him to “name” his left hand. The purpose was so that he (we) could say- “Don’t forget about —-. He wants to hold the paper while you write!” Kind of silly when I think about it now, but it was a compensation, and it helped at the time. However, that compensation wasn’t getting to the root of the problem- that pesky unintegrated STNR!
So no, my children didn’t crawl. And, their STNR reflex didn’t integrate. For my youngest, that was a problem. For my oldest, not as much. His body had managed to work around it somehow and it didn’t interfere with his daily life. Not all kids need Primitive Reflex Integration just because they have a few unintegrated reflexes. In fact, many of us have unintegrated reflexes- at least a few.
The thing to remember here is that there is a link between crawling and brain development. So if you’re reading this and have a baby (or maybe a grand baby) in your life, encourage them to crawl before they walk. It can’t hurt, and it will help set up the brain stem for later development.
You can be sure that when I have babies in my life again I’ll be encouraging them to crawl first.
I might even end up on the floor crawling right along with them. After all, why not? My STNR probably could do with a little work too…