Primative Reflexes

The visual system not functioning correctly can often be result of retained primitive reflexes.

Alastair explains “primitive reflexes are reflexes that we are all born with and they are inbuilt in us for survival. These include crying and flaying arms when a baby hears a loud noise, it was designed to attract attention and scare away any predators.”

As we grow older these reflexes normally disappear however sometimes they do not go. There are a number of reasons why this can happen and sometimes the reasons are unknown. As these reflexes are incorporated into the brain they effectively disappear and the visual system is able to develop, if these reflexes do not disappear (referred to as retained reflexes) the visual system does not fully develop.

This can lead to SpLD and there can be difficulties in reading, writing, processing information, memory for visual tasks and many more.

Signs of Retained Reflexes


Moro Reflex:

  • Vestibular problems: motion sickness, poor balance and coordination.
  • Physical timidity.
  • Eye movement and visual perceptual problems.
  • Stimulus bound effect – cannot ignore irrelevant visual material within a given visual field; the eyes tend to be drawn to the perimeter of a shape to the detriment of perception if there are internal features to the shape.
  • Light sensitivity, difficulty with black print on white paper, tires easily under fluorescent lighting.
  • Possible auditory confusion resulting from hypersensitivity to specific sounds (the child may have poor auditory discrimination skills and have difficulty shutting out background noise).
  • Allergies and lowered immunity; i.e. asthma, eczema, or a history of frequent ear, nose, and throat infections.
  • Adverse reaction to drugs.
  • Poor stamina.
  • Dislike of change or surprise; poor adaptability.


Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR):

  • Balance may be affected as a result of head movements to either side.
  • Homolateral instead of normal cross-pattern movements (i.e. when walking, marching, skipping, etc.)
  • Difficulty crossing the midline.
  • Poor ocular “pursuit” movements, especially at the midline.
  • Mixed laterality (child may use left foot, right hand, left ear, or he/she may use left or right hand interchangeably for the same task).
  • Poor handwriting and poor expression of ideas on paper.
  • Visual-perceptual problems, particularly in symmetrical representation of figures.

Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR):

  • Poor posture.
  • Tendency to slump when sitting, particularly at a desk or table.
  • Simian (ape-like) walk.
  • Poor eye-hand coordination, messy eater, clumsy child syndrome.
  • Difficulties with readjustment of binocular vision (child cannot change focus easily from blackboard to desk).
  • Slowness at copying tasks.
  • Poor swimming skills.


Spinal Galant Reflex:

  • Fidgeting.
  • Bedwetting.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Poor short-term memory.
  • Hip rotation to one side when walking.


Tonic Labyrinthe Reflex:

  • Poor posture and/or stooping.
  • Hyoptonus (weak muscle tone).
  • Vestibular-related problems (i.e. poor sense of balance, carsickness).
  • Dislike of sporting activities, physical education classes, running, etc.
  • Eye movement, visual perceptual and spatial problems.
  • Poor sequencing skills.
  • Poor sense of time.
  • Poor organization skills.

Occulo-Head Righting Reflex:

  • Poor balance
  • Possible problems with nausea, disorientation
  • Poor visual tracking skills
  • Poor spatial orientation
  • Selective attention – prefers auditory

Symptoms of retained reflexes

Retained reflexes can lead to:

  • Academic skills disorder (ASD)
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyspraxia (lack of co-ordination; clumsiness)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Or other related learning difficulties.

If you recognise any of the signs or your child has been diagnosed with one of the conditions above we could help.

For further information or to book a consultation please contact us.