• Sharmeen

Screening Tests of Primitive Reflexes

It is one thing to accept that your child needs an intervention of some sort, and another to determine what kind and level of an interventional approach would the child benefit from. This would be based on again two aspects, first, personal mindset, and second, depends on how much aware a parent is about the concern their child is facing in their academic setting.

The consensus among parents that I come across 90 percent of the time, is based on what methods are available or being practiced and what is being advised by their respective GP’s.

While doctors and midwives are familiar with assessment of the primitive reflexes at birth and are repeated at developmental health check-ups in the first six months of postnatal life, if the development appears to be progressing normally in the first year then these tests are not repeated in the preschool or school-aged child.

The developmental testing beyond the first year of life, and at the time of school entry was phased out in the 1980s, because of the changes being made for the administration of special needs in education. It was handed from the Department of Health to the Education and Science. As a result, the responsibility for investigating the ‘causes’ of special needs, was transferred from the domain of medicine to that of the educational psychologists and teachers.

One of the outcomes of these changes has been that children who are delayed in specific aspects of their physical development but have not received a medical diagnosis simply ‘slip through the net’ of services which should have been in place to identify underlying factors and provide appropriate remedial intervention or educational support. Although, the increasing body of evidence suggests that the traces of primitive reflexes can remain active in the general population in the absence of identified pathology. Therefore, the development of certain -motor functions, such as eye-hand coordination, visual and auditory perceptual disorders, balance, and coordination, (which is linked to listening skills, and not hearing as they are two different functions) fails to develop parallel to chronological age.


Although, for some children barriers to learning can be removed with appropriate educational input, but students with neuro-motor immaturity are less likely to reap long-term benefits from traditional educational approaches towards their underachievement.


Moreover, the assessment of primitive reflexes beyond the first six months of life provides the clinician or an educator with tools to assess the type and level of intervention required for the tailor-made intervention/remediation.


To conclude, the screening process allows me to identify different forms and levels of pathology, for which I must at times refer students to the personnel specializing in their fields, for example, a developmental optometrist, a chiropractor, or a NUCCA specialist.


Here, I feel compelled to mention that when a parent has the resources and chooses to hire another specialist, it does not mean that apart from the particular concern, the hired consultant can or will be able to address any other area of a student's compromised function, other than the one that they are appointed for.

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