Puzzle Pieces

*Please note- this blog post was written during my time at Brain Fit Academy Inc. I have since continued this amazing work under my own company- Brain FUNdamentals LLC. I hope you enjoy!

Primitive Reflexes. If you follow this blog of mine you know that we address unintegrated (not finished) primitive reflexes at Brain Fit Academy. 

But in case you aren’t familiar, or you need a refresher- primitive reflexes are hard- wired, early motor patterns that all babies go through. Directed by the brainstem, they are automatic, stereotyped movements. They happen without consciously doing them. Baby turns their head a certain way? Reflex kicks in. Sensory input that is possible danger? Reflex kicks in- and that’s just a few examples.

These reflexes exist for four reasons:

  • Protection
  • Facilitation of the development of our sensory systems
  • Facilitation of our ability to be comfortable in our bodies
  • Facilitation of motor development

Now when primitive reflexes haven’t fully integrated (finished) in the first few years of life, a child/adult is left with a primitive nervous system and primitive ways to deal with stress. And, depending on the specific reflex, those same people can also have challenges such as anxiety, learning challenges, balance and coordination difficulties and trouble with reading, writing and focusing. 

Ok, Amy. Thanks for the reminder about primitive reflexes. Can you get to the part about the puzzle pieces now??

Of course- so here’s the deal with puzzle pieces:

At Brain Fit, we look at the reflexes as a puzzle. In fact we call them “Reflex Puzzles”. 

And more specifically, we look at the reflexes as a series of puzzle pieces- 30 total, broken up into three parts:

  • Emerged: When the reflex first shows up. It emerges as a neuro pathway. 10 puzzle pieces.
  • Developed: When enough of the reflex movement happened to move it along. 10 more puzzle pieces.
  • Integrated: When the reflex “finishes”. Enough movement happened to make the reflex “dormant” and has made way for more sophisticated movements to take its place. The last 10 puzzle pieces.

30 puzzle pieces. Broken down to make it easier to track. You see, when we work with our clients we want to have a gauge of where the reflex is on its specific timeline. That way, we can see where we started and when the reflex has “finished” or integrated.  

How do we know where the reflex is on that timeline of 30 puzzle pieces? 

That’s where muscle checking comes in. We use muscle checking to get information direct from the source- the person we are working with.

Now, we may not muscle check the reflex every time we work with the client- but that’s ok. It’s ok because the body knows. The body remembers where it is on those timelines and will give us accurate information when we need it. Read this previous blog post if you’d like a little more information about that- or about muscle checking. Trust me- it’s worth the read. 

Thinking about the reflexes as puzzle pieces helps the children to understand what it is we’re doing- solving the puzzle of their body (of their reflexes) and what might be missing. It also helps us (as coaches) to keep track and show the client and/or their parents. It’s a concrete way to keep track of the progress as we do the work. 

Puzzles are fun to do, and reflexes puzzles are fun too. We do the Primitive Reflex Integration work, we see progress and we monitor it along that timeline of 30 pieces.

And when a reflex is integrated? It’s always fun to hear a client say:

“YES! I finished another one!!”

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