Primitive Reflexes and Self-Regulation: Correlations Between them and the Potential Impact of Rhythmic Movements on Both

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Overvelde, Susan
Primitive Reflexes , Self-Regulation , Rhythmic Movements
Self-regulation (SR), the ability to manage one’s attention, thoughts, behaviours, emotions, and social interactions, is essential for success at school. Unintegrated primitive reflexes make it more difficult for children to self-regulate. Although primitive reflexes are necessary for an infant’s survival, these reflexes typically become integrated in the first year of life as the child instinctively practices rhythmic movements. If these reflexes do not become integrated into daily functioning, they may impede the development of more mature reflexes, causing difficulties in social, emotional, and academic aspects of a child's life. This study analyzed connections among the Moro reflex (MR), Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR), and Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR), the role that rhythmic movements play in integrating these reflexes, and behavioural, cognitive, and emotional SR abilities. To study these connections, a quasi-experimental pre-post design was used. Seven kindergarten teachers led their classes in three rhythmic movement videos every day for eight weeks. These videos, from a program called Rockin’ Reflex, were designed to integrate primitive reflexes. Students’ primitive reflexes and SR skills were assessed both pre and post-intervention. There was a statistically significant improvement in post-intervention primitive reflex scores, suggesting that the rhythmic movements practiced in these videos helped integrate children’s primitive reflexes. There were also statistically significant improvements in behavioural, cognitive, and emotional self-regulation scores, suggesting that by integrating primitive reflexes, children were able to self-regulate better. In addition to statistical analysis, the social validity of this program was also assessed. Teachers provided feedback about the training and the program both pre and post-intervention by way of surveys. The teachers also interviewed several students about their impressions of the Rockin’ Reflex videos. This feedback was mostly positive as six of the seven teachers expressed their likelihood to use the program again and belief that it had some impact on students’ self-regulation abilities. Although further research is required, this study suggests that unintegrated primitive reflexes make it more difficult for children to self-regulate. This study supports the idea that the primitive reflexes of school aged children can be integrated by practicing rhythmic movements which mimic those infants naturally do. The rhythmic movements practiced in the Rockin’ Reflex videos helped to integrate students’ primitive reflexes and improved SR skills. As these activities are easy to implement in the kindergarten classroom, they may help to close the gap in SR abilities when the child is just starting school.
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