How a Primitive Reflex May be Misdiagnosed as ADHD
Sometimes I come across students diagnosed with ADHD, who take prescription medication but who's parents report minimal changes in certain behaviors. This alerts me that something else might be playing a factor in disruptive behaviors. Primitive reflexes are involuntary reactions active in utero up to the first year of life. Their purpose is to aid in the birth process, ensure contact with the mother, facilitate feeding and provide the foundation for future milestones. They are crucial to the proper development of the brain, nervous system, body and sensory systems.
The Spinal Galant Reflex encourages movement and development of range of motion in the hips. This important reflex prepares the baby for crawling and walking. During labor, when stimulated the hips rotate, knees and arms bend and the head lifts helping the baby down the birth canal. In a newborn, softly stroking just to the side of the spine on the lower back initiates a side flexion in the baby and the child’s hip rises toward the touch. If there is stimulation on both sides of the lower spine, this will activate the reflex, which frequently causes urination and could be another reason why bedwetting happens in children over the age of five.
The Spinal Galant Reflex usually integrates/disappears in typical development by 12 months. If the reflex is still present in a child that is older, it may cause some behaviors that a child could struggle with at school and at home.
A few signs and symptoms of a retained Spinal Galant Reflex are :
Fidgeting when sitting, "ants in pants" behavior; inability to sit still because the sides of the spine are constantly being stimulated
Dislike of tight clothing around the waist
Bedwetting and/or poor bladder control
Lack of focus and attention to a task
Trouble with short term memory
How is the Spinal Galant Reflex often mistaken for ADHD?
Do these symptoms sound familiar? Many of these signs are the same problems we see in kids who were diagnosed with ADHD. Past and current studies describe that children with ADHD show strong signs of a retained Spinal Galant Reflex. In fact, researchers even speculate that the hallmark symptoms of ADHD, such as the inability to sit still, fidgeting and poor concentration, could be directly attributed to a retained Spinal Galant Reflex in the child. The retained response can be elicited by any stimulus making contact with the lower spine. Every time a student’s back is against a chair, the reflex is activated so the child wiggles in his or her chair. This constant irritant affects the child’s concentration and short-term memory. If the reflex remains only on one side it may influence posture and walking. If posture and walking are affected, it may present itself as clumsiness.
Snow Angel exercise integrates the Spinal Galant reflex. Because reflexes are impeded in the primitive part of the brain, they take time to integrate. Reflex integration activities should be done daily for 30 days, AND your child no longer demonstrates the reflex.
To read more about the Spinal Galant, or testing to see if your child has it, visit the ILS Learning Corner. .