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How are reflexes linked to handwriting?


How are reflexes linked to handwriting? 

How can RMTi help with Handwriting Difficulties?

Several of my clients have come to me, because they have difficulties with their handwriting and getting their ideas down on paper. I trained in teaching handwriting and know what it is like to try and help children who are struggling and see relatively little progress. Through learning about childhood reflexes, I have discovered that there is much more to learning to write, than just ‘practice makes perfect.’ If someone is finding learning to write, difficult, there is a reason.

There are a number of aspects to take into consideration, when addressing difficulties with writing – Hand Reflexes, Postural Reflexes and Near Visual Skills.

Hand Reflexes

The first thing I assess is where on their developmental journey hand reflexes are, in the person’s system and what impact this has on their fine motor control. There are three key reflexes in the hands, which we work with in RMTi:
Hand-Mouth Babkin: a reflex that is found in the middle of the palm. If you press into the palm of the hand and there are sensations in the jaw, or mouth movements, then the Babkin is retained. If it is retained, it makes it difficult for the fingers to move efficiently and to isolate movement and control for letter formation, to just the fingers. Usually, the individual will struggle with the tri-point grip and hold their pen in a fashion where the whole hand is required to be involved in letter formation. If retained it could also have an effect on speech development.
Palmar Grasp – closely linked to the Babkin – but found by pressing gently across the top of the palm, just below the fingers. If retained, the fingers will curl over, with the stimulation. The palm can be very sensitive to touch. It is also linked to the emotional ability to let go of things. If the fingers don’t understand that they can move independently of the rest of the hand and arm, it makes the process of writing, very tiring and effortful. Usually, the whole hand and arm will be engaged in the writing process and there’ll be a great deal of stress and tension, running up the arm, into the shoulder and neck.
Pull to Sit Reflex (Hands Pulling) – This reflex is one that is assessed in new-born babies – You may have seen it on ‘Call the Midwife.’ When you hold a baby around the wrists and pull them up from laying on their backs – it triggers a reaction in the arms, so they bend slightly, to help assist with the transition of movement. The head and the core of the body should naturally be part of the response. An undeveloped Hands Pulling Reflex shows up in tension in the forearms, which makes the process of writing, really difficult.

So how can RMT help? After assessing for the retention of these reflexes I recommend gentle exercises and games that help these reflexes to integrate. Hand massage can be really effective, as well as;

  • clapping games,
  • cat’s cradle and many other games, we used to play when we were children,
  • play dough,
  • therapy putty,
  • stress balls,
  • the myriad of toys available for developing fine motor skills can all add to the journey .
  • Spending time in a playground, climbing on climbing frames, hanging from ‘monkey bars’ and so on.

These help to build up strength and control, naturally.

We cover a lot of different types of intervention ideas on our fantastic course: RMTi for School Readiness. You can find details of when and where this course is being run, near you, by logging onto the international site: https://rhythmicmovement.org/class-offerings

Postural Reflexes
We also work with the postural reflexes that are linked to the development of the hand reflexes – Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR), Symmetric Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR) and Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR) – and the results are remarkable.

Near Visual Skills

Another aspect to pay attention to, is whether the eyes are working well together, as a team, for near visual skills. Checking to see how effortlessly a person is able to track a moving object with their eyes – independently of the head. We should be able to effortlessly track left to right, up and down and converge the eyes, hold the convergence for several seconds and control the divergence of the eyes again. Obviously, visual skills will be closely connected to reading skills as well.

Very few people I have worked with are able to do this, in the beginning. However, the Rhythmic Movements stimulate the brain naturally and often peoples’ near visual skills adjust very quickly. I have several clients who have reported dramatic changes within days of starting their Growth Work. Visual development is closely associated with reflexes that underpin our postural control. Again, Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR), Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR) and Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR) as well as one called Landau, are all associated with visual control through the development of the fine muscles for tracking. This is established as the baby learns to master head control and eye-hand coordination. As the baby moves around on the floor, reaching, grasping, pulling things into their mouths, so eye-hand coordination, binocular vision and fusion begin to develop. Tracking and pursuit skills develop as the baby lies on their back, sucking fingers, toes and pulling toys towards their mouth. As they establish their head control, then accommodation – the ability to switch focus between near and far, spatial awareness skills and depth perception develop. If these skills are not fully established in a person’s system, they will understandably have an impact on the ability to write and read effortlessly. If we can’t see properly, how do we gauge what we are writing on the page? How can we judge the correct spacing or placement of the letters on the line? How can we tell we have formed our letters correctly? (See more information about reflexes and reading in my blog- What do reflexes have to do with learning to read?)

Here are a couple of examples of how clients handwriting control changes. The first one was in just a couple of months. The first sample was from before they started with RMTi. The second sample was done one week after their first session and the third sample was done two weeks after their second session. I had simply given a couple of passive movements to stimulate the brain, naturally and a hand massage to be done, once a day.The icing on the cake, was receiving a four – page story, which they wrote for me, as a Christmas present. What a thrill – for someone who simply could not get their ideas down on paper, when we started. What a change!

The second example is from another client. The change seen in this image, took just three weeks to happen. The approach had been exactly the same – start with a couple of passive movements to stimulate the brain, naturally and the hand massage, once a day. I like to start at this point and see what the brain decides to do, with the stimulation it receives from the movements. Then, I build on people’s systems, from there.

In all the years I spent teaching handwriting in school, I never saw results like these! I see progress like this being made all the time.

The bottom line is, if your child finds things difficult to do, there is a reason. Find the reason, and work on that – and you’ll get results more quickly, more naturally, and with life changing results. Practice does not necessarily always make perfect.

If practice does not help change to stay, then there is an underlying reason, which needs to be addressed. Reflex integration can really assist this process, naturally.

RMTi is a reflex integration program, which originated in Sweden. We use natural baby movement patterns to gently stimulate change in the brain. It is natural and drug free approach to making positive changes to the way the brain controls the body. To find out more about what RMTi is – Rhythmic Movement Training International, check out the international site: https://rhythmicmovement.org


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