Primitive Reflex Integration for Successful Learning and Development: Part 3 (ATNR Reflex)

What are Primitive Reflexes?

Primitive Reflexes are automatic movements that begin to occur in utero and last through the early months of a child’s postnatal life. With typical development, the nervous system matures and naturally replaces the primitive reflexes (survival reflexes) with higher level postural reflexes (reflexes required for balance, coordination, and sensory motor development). Retained primitive reflexes can lead to developmental delays related to ADHD, sensoryprocessing disorder, autism, developmental delay and many other learning disabilities.

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Asymmetrical tonic neck reflex (ATNR) Reflex

The function of the ATNR reflex is to initiate movement of the arms and legs. The ATNR reflex is also a building block for eye hand co-ordination. This reflex emerges 18 weeks in utero and is typically integrated by 6 months of age.

A retained ATNR can have a significant impact on a child’s physical, cognitive, social and emotional progress. If your child presents three or more of the following symptoms, make an appointment for an occupational therapy evaluation.

  • Poor reading skills, inability to follow a line, getting lost along the line, losing place
  • Unable to cross eyes easily, or hurts when crossing
  • Difficulty eating, or messy eating
  • Poor handwriting and copying
  • Poor expression of ideas on paper
  • Poor hand eye coordination, or difficulty catching or throwing balls
  • Tight pen grip, breaks pencil lead frequently
  • Complains of hand cramps during writing tasks
  • Dislikes writing due to slow or increased difficulty
  • Difficulty skipping or marching
  • Poor coordination and balance
  • Clumsy
  • Poor left and right knowledge
  • Reversal of letters, numbers
  • Continues to draw a circle in a clockwise direction
  • Frequently remains childish
  • Poor behavior control
  • Poor sequencing skills
  • Difficulty following multiple instructions, poor memory
  • Impulsive or emotionally immature for their age

A retained ATNR reflex is 1 of 6 primitive reflexes treated by the occupational therapy team at Team 4 Kids.
~ Melissa, Occupational Therapy Team ~