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What do reflexes have to do with learning to read?


What do reflexes have to do with learning to read? 

Having taught for many years, there are lots of things that can make learning to read challenging – specially learning difficulties like Dyslexia.
When parents come to me to ask if I can help their child, who is struggling to learn to read, the first thing to assess is whether the muscle tone in their eyes, is actually developed enough, for efficient tracking and focus.
How easy is it for the eyes to actually stay on the line, they are trying to read? How much effort is required? Do the eyes tire quickly? Does your child have poor stamina when it comes to the reading process?
– Can they hold a moving object steadily in their sight?
– Can they track smoothly, from left to right, and right to left – or do the eyes jump?
– Can they track smoothly going up and down – or do the eyes jump and anticipate where the moving object is going to?
– Can they converge – control the muscles coming in to focus on a near point?
– How long does it take for them to switch between focussing on a near object, to a far object, and back again?

Tracking Left to Right – The eyes should be able to move smoothly and independently of the head, to track things from side to side. They should be able to do this in a repeated fashion, without any tremors, or jumping. If there are signs of this being effortful to do, and to sustain, it is obvious that the ability to read on the line, will be difficult to maintain. It is also a sign that a neck reflex called the Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex is under-developed, and connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, need more stimulation. If this process is effortful the individual will not be able to track smoothly. They may hesitate to cross the midline, and eyes jump. They will tire quickly, blink, or rub their eyes.

Tracking Up and Down – When the fine muscle tone in the eyes is properly developed, the eyes should be able to track a moving object smoothly and effortlessly, up and down. This is necessary for playing sports, working in the classroom environment, driving, and reading. If this process is effortful, the eyes will have limited range of movement, will tire quickly, and will find it difficult to switch planes of sight. Eyes could jump, and struggle to stay focussed on an moving object. This is also a sign that two neck reflexes are still under-developed in the system – the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex and the Symmetrical Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex.

Converging and Accommodation – Are the other two areas of fine muscle control that need to be assessed.
How easy is it to bring the eyes into a near point focus – e.g – following the finger coming into the nose? Can the fine muscle control cope with that? Or do the eyes only move a little bit? They should be able to move easily into the converged point and out again – and they should be able to do it, symmetrically. If not, it is going to have implications for how well the individual can see, with binocular vision, and will have implications in sport, and games, such as tennis. It will also have implications for being able to focus on the written word.
Accommodation is the ability to switch focus between near and far, quickly. This is really important in the classroom setting – or in big room settings – where you are required to focus on something far away, then switch to near and switch back again. If there is a long delay between those two areas, chances are, you have forgotten what you were meant to be doing. Particularly when having to make notes from something on screen. By the time you can see up close, you can’t remember what you wanted to write down. This will play out in those who make few notes, and always seem to be so much slower than others in the classroom at completing tasks. – Could problems with accommodation be at the root of that delay?
The reflexes that are foundational to the fine motor control in the eyes being able to develop for this, are the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex and the Symmetrical Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex.

I have had clients whose delay started off at about 15 seconds between being able to switch, and the delay got longer, the more they tried to do it. We worked on reflex integration, and after just one month, that delay had come down to just four seconds. Needless to day, things had become significantly easier to cope with at college, as a result of this

Can RMT help those who have challenges with their vision? Absolutely. The more good connections there are in the brain, the more co-ordinated we are with our gross motor co-ordination. Once the gross motor improves, the fine motor co-ordination seems to take care of itself. However, we do have ways of gently stimulating the muscle control, so that the muscle tone improves in the eyes. I have plenty of clients who have gone from reluctant readers, making very little progress at school, to avid readers, leaping up through the ‘book band levels’, to competent readers – just because we worked on reflex integration. It is a joyous journey to share.

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